Letters to the Editor
September 10th, 2009

To the Editor:
City of Fillmore citizens recently received a direct mail piece entitled Measure F “The Fair Rent and Homeownership Initiative” from the El Dorado Estates park office. There is nothing in the provisions of this measure promising “fair rents”. Many homeowners in El Dorado pay some of the highest space rents in Ventura County for a senior mobile home park, because Fillmore is the only city without any type of rent stabilization.
This mail piece is most deceiving in that it targets only prospective buyers who would be required to purchase a space lot in addition to the home on that lot. To date, the costs of lots have not been made public. Prices for lots will be determined at a date unknown, and by the park owner’s discretion. HOW can anyone make a sound decision on voting without all the details?? In addition, financing space lots will be extremely difficult for individuals on fixed incomes and with minimal assets. Currently, mobile home values and equity in our homes are at an all time low, some selling as low as $10,000.
The mail piece also states that buyers would have “a say in keeping the park a senior park”. There is no language in Measure F that assures El Dorado will remain a senior park, nor has the park owner responded to any inquiries regarding this measure.
Vote NO on Measure F. Save El Dorado homes!
Voice of El Dorado Mobile Homeowner’s Association

To the Editor:
After reading Cecilia Cuevas' letter to editor last week, I must admit how sad it must be for Cecilia to have not come to grips with reality as to why her bid for re-election failed so harshly. We've heard from Cecilia that she lost because of her opponents campaign slogans and signs. The people of Fillmore did not vote for a specific candidate(s) because of a slogan or the appearance of a campaign sign. These excuses that Cecilia Cuevas has expressed shows the continuation of undermining the electorate of Fillmore. I believe with my mind and heart that the people of Fillmore vote their consequence and above all else, issues that pertain to them and their pocket books. In light of Cecilia's loss and her refusal to accept the poor decisions she has made, now she wants to portray her record as something that deserves such high praise and collaboration. I respectfully disagree. Once again without any solutions, Cecilia Cuevas is complaining about the construction of the 2009-2010 budget. Her complaints are a little premature. First, as I expressed at the last City Council meeting-08/25/09; the City of Fillmore, thanks to our progressive City Council and City staff, the budget is currently on-line so the public has ample opportunity to download a copy at their leisure. Also, a full five minute allotment of speaking time during the public comment portion of all City Council meetings is back in motion. It should be noted when Cecilia Cuevas was in office, requests by citizens for the budget to be published on-line were virtually ignored. At the same time, the public comment portion of all meetings were between 3-4 minutes per former Mayor Conaway's request.
Going into further detail, I remember not too long ago in 2008, Cecilia Cuevas whom at the time was our acting Mayor Pro-tem, walked out before the official 2008-2009 budget vote. This vote would be a consequential vote since Cecilia Cuevas was a stalwart for colossal spending increases and upper level City staff salary increases (yes on record). All this knowing that there were severe threats from Sacramento on pending state budget cuts and a potential unbalanced budget that would soon effect the entire State of California. So, Cecilia's solution would be the oldest trick from the Washington D.C play book: skip the vote with minimal consequences right before the election and pray no one notices! This is just of many poor decisions that has overwhelmed Cecilia's voting record and the ability to lead.
In the meantime, shall I delve deeper into Cecelia Cuevas' voting record as a former elected official (2000-2008)? I think I'll wait until 2010 and continue on enacting my democratic rights as a citizen; one who cares enough to help the people of Fillmore and assist the City Council in bringing forth worthwhile solutions to make the City of Fillmore the best and most financially secure town in Ventura County.
Brian N. Sipes,
A Fillmore resident and local business owner

To the Editor:
The Ralph M. Brown Act is a state law requiring that the actions of public agencies be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly. The Brown Act states that the people of a community do not give a city council the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The Brown Act also states that the people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the city council members that they have elected.

On August 25, 2009 after conducting an illegal one-hour “emergency” closed session Mayor Patti Walker violated the people’s trust by stating that “there had been an unintentional Brown Act violation, that there were no significant consequences to the violation, and that the matter was closed”. Since Walker intentionally withheld any information about the Brown Act violation, she did not give the community the opportunity to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.

Ms. Walker also failed to let the public know that she and Interim City Manager Larry Pennell were put on notice that they had violated the Brown Act and that they should not act on the ill-gotten information and they chose do otherwise. Is it too much to ask of an experienced city council member (Walker) and an experienced city manager (Pennell) to conduct business fairly, openly and with the highest ethics? Apparently so. Did Walker and Pennell’s acting on the ill-gotten information result in the expenditure of public funds? I suspect that it did and Walker should be required to disclose what the ill-gotten information was, and as a result of that information what action did she and Pennell take and why. All public funds expended by Walker and Pennell as a result of the illegal action should be paid back to the city.

In Walker’s first term of office on the City Council (2000 – 2004) she was censured by her fellow council members for unethical conduct, and adamantly refused to sign the city council’s Code of Ethics. Then in November 2007 during her second term of office (2006-2010), Ms. Walker demanded that the city’s Code of Ethics be changed, contending that it trampled on her and others’ freedom of speech. In support of Walkers’ opposition to the Code of Ethics, Jamey Brooks said “what you need is people to be ethical …you don't need a system to punish them”. Based upon Ms. Walker’s track record, I strongly disagree with Brooks and strongly believe that you do need a system to punish them.

Walker claims that the Brown Act violation was “unintentional”, but she fails to let the public know that once she was put on notice of the “unintentional” violation, that she and Pennell intentionally compounded the violation and chose to act on the ill-gotten information. You just can’t trust Walker to say and do the right thing even when she’s admitting fault….if proper ethics would have followed she would have fully disclosed her actions, provided detailed information on the incident, and what is being done to correct it”.

There are other recent Brown Act violations that Walker has been involved in that have been bro
ught to the City Council’s attention by a state wide watch dog group called Californians Aware. And these are just the ones they know about. Could there be others? A public records request to the City requesting copies of all e-mail communications between Pennell, Walker and other members of the City Council would be appropriate. Additionally, someone should contact the Ventura County District Attorney’s office and have them investigate the Brown Act conduct of Walker and Pennell over the last 4 months.

Roy Payne

To the Editor:
Enough is enough!! The Roy Payne Letter published in your September 3rd edition was Annoying to say the least. For the record, a man’s greatness is judged by his actions, not by his words. The costly new Fillmore Sewer Plant, will define Mr. Payne’s actions and words in a very negative way, for many years.
Mr. Payne resides in Thousand Oaks, and his constant critical letters to the Gazette, criticizing Mayor Walker, along with Council members Brooks and Washburn serve no useful purpose. Regarding his comments about the salary discussions for the new City Manager, you would think that Mr. Payne was present when the City council was making the decision.
If Mr. Payne is so interested in what happens in Fillmore, why doesn’t he reside here?? He has never lived in Fillmore, and yet, he thinks that he is a member of our Community. I wish Mr. Payne, Good Health and Happiness in his retirement, but it is time for him to find something else to do, in the Community where he resides. Enough is Enough!!!
Sincerely yours,
Kenneth Creason
Fillmore

 


 
Letters to the Editor
September 3rd, 2009

To the Editor:
On August 16 our son Jason passed away after fighting cancer for over 2 years. It was a long valiant fight.
During those two years he had a lot of prayers and support from those who knew and loved him from Fillmore and other parts of the country.
His mother and I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all those out there who not only prayed but called and encouraged him.
We would also like to express our gratitude to Skillins-Carroll Mortuary for what has to be the kindest, most professional, and compassionate care I have ever witnessed. From the young men that came and took charge of our son, to the director that we met with to handle the service and everyone else that participated in his service they were professional, compassionate, and extremely kind. Their attitude helped us tremedeously in this trying time. Vince you have done a fine job and have a staff you can be proud of.
We would also like to express our gratitude to all that came out to support us and to see Jason off in style.
Especially his classmates that not only came to pay respect but have called us, e-mailed, posted messages online, etc.
They also started a memorial fund for Jason at Santa Clara Valley Bank to help us with the expenses.
When you go out to Barsdale to visit Jason and you see his headstone, when it gets delivered, I want you to know that it came from all those out there that loved Jason and who contributed to help, it was paid for in full by you. Thank you.
Thanks to all of you again,
Mike and Phyllis Steel

To the Editor:
In response to Payne’s 941 word letter (the rest of us only get 250 words).
I never “pronounced a steadfast commitment to …salary reductions”. Here are my answers to the Gazette’s questions on that issue:
9/17/2008: My response was …”the City has a big payroll. While our management salaries and benefits are high, I am more concerned with our consulting payroll. We paid enough money to Boyle Engineering over the last couple of years to hire over 50 full time engineers and assistants. “
9/23/2008: How will/would you vote on the current city staff salary increases and why?
“I would vote to put a freeze on management salaries for at least 6 months. There is currently a crisis in financial markets that will have an impact on our future revenues. “
This is what happened last Tuesday. The proposed budget was adopted without salary increases or decreases (other than represented employees) with the exception of the Assistant Finance Director – of which I voted “no”.
While we are on the subject of salaries, I was shocked to see that the management salaries that you went to great effort to justify by benchmarking with other cities, did not include the City Council salaries, leaving our Council members paid 400% less than Santa Paula’s and 900% less than Ojai’s. While we are clearly not in this for the money, I find it self serving of you to look after your staff but not the residents, i.e. Council.
Nearly every sentence of your current and past letters contains twisted mistruths and misleading statements. What a disservice you do to the community that nurtured and paid you for years and made it possible to pay you over $100,000 per year for the rest of your life. I would hope that you would behave like a professional and respect the opinions of the voters and citizens (like me) that have provided a comfortable life for you at our expense.
Gayle Washburn
Fillmore Councilmember
[Ms. Washburn, if you had read The Gazette in the past few months you would have noticed that your statement “the rest of us only get 250 words” is false: Patti Walker 08/27--479 words, 07/16--1,392 words; Bob Stroh 07/23--399 words, 07/16--655 words, 07/02--441 words, 06/18--344 words, 06/11--517 words; Brian Sipes 07/16--655 words. It always helps to come to the editorial page and council meetings prepared. Martin Farrell]

To the Editor:
Well the duplicity of Brooks and Washburn and their budget-wage-cutting sword was in full political double-speak action this past week. As you will recall, both Brooks and Washburn on several occasions before and after the last council election, have pronounced their steadfast commitment to management and mid-management salary reductions; to cuts in employee benefits; and to reductions in expensive management compensation contracts. In fact on June 3, 2008 Brooks said he had come to create division and not peace and that the City was paying too much for the poor city management and mid-management that we are getting.
So what have they done to put your money where their mouth is? On last Tuesday, they adopted the most expensive budget in the history of the city. Management and mid-management salaries were increased by 6% to 20%, and overall budget expenses were increased by $1.5 million. Not only did they adopt a budget with 6% to 20% increases for management and mid-management employees, they unilaterally reduced the salaries for public works employees and custodians in violation of negotiated contract agreements with those employees. But they did not stop there; they also violated Section 54954.2(a) (2) of the Brown Act by taking up a matter that was not on the agenda in order to grant a special raise to the Interim Finance Director. Hypocritical? You bet. Political double-speak and duplicity? Their political effrontery is only matched by their political incompetence.
And while they were on their janus-faced roll, they held another meeting last Friday to discuss the proposed terms of an employment agreement with the new city manager. This discussion proved to be quite interesting and revealing. Mayor Walker started the discussion by pompously emphasizing that the proposed employment agreement with the new city manager was based upon the previous employment agreements for retired city manager Payne and resigned city manager Ristau. This in the face of previous pronouncements by Walker, Washburn and Brooks that the previous city managers were overpaid and their contracts were too expensive for the community of Fillmore. So they proceeded to review the contract for the new manager to make sure that each and every benefit that was granted to the previous managers was provided to the new manager! When it came to the salary discussion, Washburn and Brooks weakly whimpered that they would like to see the starting salary at $128,000, but they quickly wilted to the prodding of Mayor Walker who said the new manager deserved to be paid at the same $133,000 rate as former Manager Ristau (who Brooks had said on several occasions in the past was vastly overpaid). Mr. Brooks what has happened to your salary cutting sword? When it came to city manager benefits, Ms. Washburn glibly stated that Fillmore’s benefit package was very generous and above and beyond all other cities. Ms. Washburn then proceeded to support the inclusion of the full Fillmore benefit package for the new city manager. Both Brooks and Washburn were also fully supportive of a “cooling off” provision in the contract which prohibits a future duly elected council from terminating the city manager for a period of six months after a council election. This provision is so hypocritical as to be laughable. You may recall that both Brooks and Washburn wanted to review Mr. Ristau’s employment agreement as their first act of business after they were elected. Given the pre-election rhetoric of these two individuals, there is no question in any logical person’s mind that their intent was to terminate Mr. Ristau. But now that they are in office, they do not want a future elected councilperson to have that authority.
So how did Brooks and Washburn justify their actions to grant management salary increases, generous benefits and a contract for the new city manager that is equal to or better than the one they opposed for previous city manager Ristau? They did what all good politician’s do, they did their best Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation and “kicked the can down the road”. Better than that, like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, they handed off the responsibility for cutting management and mid-management salaries and benefits to the new city manager and will allow her to be the heavy with the city staff in this matter. Speaking of the Wizard of Oz, I will address Mayor Walker’s Brown Act and ethics codes shenanigans of the past week at a later date, once I do a little further research.
As you will recall Brooks and Washburn back in January 2009, as one of their first orders of business requested copies of all employment contracts. So they have had that information for over 7-months, but you would have to wonder if they ever read the stuff based upon the questions they asked at the meeting on Friday. They did not have a clue as to what General Leave is; how much life insurance the city manager receives (it is clearly spelled out in the contract); and how much deferred compensation the city manager receives (also spelled out in the contract). They also had to ask who has the authority to cut salaries, the city manager or the city council. The City Attorney had to advise them that the City Manager is responsible for recommending yearly individual and merit/step raises, the City Council has the discretion to deny all salary increases, excepting mandatory Union negotiated raises. Too bad the City Attorney did not tell them last Tuesday night that they had no authority to adopt a budget that reduced Union negotiated raises. How many ways can you spell Hypocrisy and Incompentency?
I am off to research the Wizard.
Roy Payne

To the Editor:
Stroh wrote, "Farrell claims that Mayor Walker has shunned ethics, 'as she has steadfastly refused to sign the city ethics code." A reminder, nobody signs the city ethics code because there isn't one."
In 2006 when Patti Walker was elected, the City did have a Code of Ethics, which carried the weight of law in Fillmore. Patti was elected while the Code was in effect and she refused to sign it. Her actions speak for themselves. I was the member that made the motion to toss out the Code as it was my belief that it was tearing the council apart. Better to toss it out and start fresh. Perhaps the recent Ralph M. Brown Act violation would have not taken place had a code been in place.
Previously you wrote "in spite of the rosy projections given by the last city manager and finance director just a few months ago, even the most casual observer of the state of our economy and the housing crisis should have foreseen the trouble we find ourselves in." Many did. A year ago people (including Jamie Brooks, Gayle Washburn and then council member Patti Walker) were urging the past council to exercise restraint in handing out pay raises for top managers to no avail. Now we are told that at our curent rate of spending we will be out of money in eighteen months; the cost-cutting will have unfortunate consequences for many people." Are you surprised that the projections by the last city manager (Ristau) and finance director (Smith) have been proven true? The new budget reflects increased revenues, higher spending and increased reserves. Thanks to past City Managers Payne and Ristau and Finance Director Barbara Smith. Today's council reaps the rewards for past decisions.
At last Tuesday night's council meeting Walker successfully led the effort to hand out a wage increase for one individual. So much for exercising restraint. Be careful all, no one is watching how fast these new council members in charge are spending the money, we (former councils) work so hard to build, with virtually all projects dead in the water...what will happen when they burn through all the reserves? Unfortunately, most don't notice until services are cut. I hope WE CAN TAKE OUR TOWN BACK in one year from those who are running it into the ground!
Cecilia Cuevas
Former Mayor Pro Tem

 


 
Letters to the Editor
August 27th, 2009

To the Editor:
HYPOCRISY, INCOMPENTENCY OR BOTH?
On May 13, 2009 Mayor Walker hired an outside consultant at $80 per hour to "help prepare the city’s 2009-10 fiscal year budget". Walker said the contract would "terminate on June 30 if not sooner". Two weeks later, Mayor Walker was quoted in the Ventura Star (May 28, 2009 after the resignations of City Manager Ristau and Finance Director Smith) of stating "we are on track, on board to have a budget before the council before the end of June, and we have cohesiveness at the dais." Retired Finance Director Smith had submitted a draft of a balanced budget to Interim City Manager Pennell on April 14 before her retirement on May 14. So the interim City Manager, city staff and the City Council had a working draft of the budget a full 2 ½ months before the June 30 budget adoption deadline. But instead of the outside consultant getting the budget done on time, the Walker led council majority decides to change the budget format to make it more "transparent" and tells the council that the budget won't be done on time, and that the outside consultant’s contract will need to be extended for at least 45 days beyond the June 30 deadline. It is now August 25 and the financial consultant is still under contract.

For the first time in Fillmore’s history the City Council was unable to adopt a budget on time and extended the budget adoption date to August 25, 2009, 56 days beyond the June 30 deadline.

The city council held three budget workshops to discuss the “newly formatted” budget. At the first budget workshop on July 28, the interim City Manager tells the City Council and the public that the City will need to cut $1.9 million from the budget and that the City will run out of funds in 18 months. At the second budget workshop on August 11, Councilmember Conaway finds 37 errors in the budget document prepared by Pennell, sending Pennell back to the drawing board to revise the budget document. Then a revised budget document appears on August 24 giving the public one day to review a $69 million expenditure plan and 192 page document.

The August 24 version of the budget corrects the errors found by Councilmember Conaway and low and behold, instead of running out of funds in 18 months Pennell finds that the budget is balanced and the City has almost $5.3 million in reserves! Revenues are up $14.3 million in the revised version which tells me that the version that had the 37 errors was totally out of whack and that Pennell unnecessarily (intentionally or unintentionally) raised the alarm about the need for $1.1 million in cuts and the forecasted going broke in 18 months. If you look at the expenditure side, expenses in the revised are UP $1.1 million, so instead of CUTTING $1.9 million from the budget Pennell ADDED $1.1 million in expenditures.

While other cities in Ventura County (Santa Paula, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, and Ventura) because of the state of the economy and the state takeaway of funds from cities are cutting their budgets and eliminating job positions from their budgets, Fillmore has increased its expenditures and has added four new job positions to the budget.

Walker and Washburn state that “the City Council, the Interim City Manager, staff and financial consultant have spent many hours of effort in budget revisions and project deferments to try and balance the budget and still maintain services.” In fact, they have wasted many hours and spend over $100,000 to “reformat” the budget which caused the budget to not be adopted on time, extended the number of hours that consultants had to be paid, resulted in numerous errors in the budget, misled the public into thinking that the city was going to run out of money in 18 months and misled the public into thinking that $1.8 million would need to be cut from the budget when in fact they ADDED $1.1 million in expenditures, and failed to provide the public with adequate time to review the budget.

But it is not over; the latest draft of the budget contains significant raises for management and mid-management employees. Raises that I hope are errors and not real raises of 6% to 20%. It is difficult to discern how much each management and mid-management employee is actually making and how much they are getting in raises because the Council and Pennell refuse to include a summary of payroll costs in the budget. This payroll summary had been included as a part of the budget document for the past 20+ years, but with the decision to “reformat” the budget; this information was intentionally omitted from the budget. By the way, Washburn, Walker and Brooks think that they as City Council members deserve a raise because of all their hard work. What have they done to justify a raise in pay?

So with these latest errors in the budget, the finance consultant’s contract will probably get extended again, along with Pennell’s contract. Pennell has already chewed up 800 hours at $110 an hour in just 4 months. That’s a total of $88,000 for four months of work and the financial consultant was paid $25,000 for about three months of work.

If the previous city management (Ristau and Smith) had made these kind of budget blunders and misleading statements and had released a budget document with only one day for public review, you can bet that the cabal of Walker, Washburn and Brooks would have called it malfeasance, intentional avoidance of transparency in government and demanded their resignations. This cabal used to cry, snivel, wring their hands, gnash their teeth, because THEY weren't individually, each and every one of them, notified about whatever was going on at City Hall. From budgets to the sewer plans to the North Fillmore Specific Plan, they would moan that there wasn't enough notice given so that they could each and every one of them review and comment...so, they take power, and what happens?

It will be interesting to hear how they justify their own acts of incompetence and lack of transparency.
Roy Payne

Responce to Roy Payne from Mayor Patti Walker:
By unanimous vote, the council hired Larry Pennell as the Interim City Manager on April 22, 2009. John Wooner was brought in as a consultant to bring a budget forward in May, 2009. At that time, the consultant was given, again by unanimous vote, the daunting task of reformatting the budget to make it more transparent for the citizens.

Of the items Council Member Conaway brought forward some were formatting errors - wrong map was shown, incorrect wording of budget items and the like. He did make a request to include over 200 transfers within the specific fund line item which was supported by council and a request to use RDA funds for payment of stipends (which we have learned from our RDA attorney we cannot do). Of the 37 comments he had 33 were questions (some were duplicates) and four were suggestions for the council’s consideration.

The budget calendar submitted by Ms. Smith and approved by the council on March 24, 2009, showed department budget requests were due by April 23, Mr. Pennell’s second day on the job. The Preliminary Budget was originally calendared for adoption on June 23, with the Final Budget up for consideration and adoption on September 8, 2009.

The council was able to retain employees, something all should be thankful for and celebrate. The new employees are maintenance personnel for beautiful new pool and Two River’s Park. The council was the entity which increased expenditures by the hiring of three paramedics to be added commencing January 1, 2010, an additional $400,000 for special litigation (a request by the city attorney regarding the ongoing sales tax agreement litigation), and the possible purchase of software to provide better public access to the city in the sum of $22,000. It was through the working relationship of the department heads and Mr. Pennell that a total reduction of over $865,000 was located, all the while not reducing services to the community. Mr. Pennell also located an additional $750,000 in property taxes and $435,000 in motor vehicle in-lieu tax, for a total of $1.185 additional revenue.

This is the first time in the city’s history that the budget has been available, throughout the entire process, on line for public viewing. And as noted by Mr. Payne, it was a venue he utilized and provided his input by way of his letter. I and Mayor Pro Tem Washburn submitted a notice to the community which was published on the front page of the Gazette on August 20, 2009, urging the community to attend last night’s council meeting and view the draft budget at the city’s website. I was personally contacted by members of the community, which I acknowledged last night, providing their input and comments. As stated last evening by Brian Sipes the new format is “progress.”

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to Mr. Payne’s comments.
Patti Walker, Mayor

REBUTTAL TO Patti Walker by Roy Payne: Submitted by Roy Payne on Wed, 08/26/2009

Ms. Walker's response to my letter regarding the Hypocrisy and Incompetence of the City Council just reinforces the hypocrisy that I discussed in my letter. Ms. Walker fails to mention that the draft budget that the City Council approved last night was not available on-line to the public until August 24, giving the public only one day to review the 192 page document. Ms. Walker attempts to fool the public by saying the budget was on line during the entire process instead of acknowledging that the version the City Council approved on August 25 was only available for one day. Ms. Walker defends this lack of public notice rather than agreeing that transparency in the budget process was circumvented. This is hypocrisy at its finest given Ms. Walker and Ms. Washburn's past track record of demanding open and adequate advanced notice and advanced copies of important city public documents. Ms. Walker has also demanded in the past that the City Council be given agenda items on the Wednesday preceding the Tuesday council meeting. However, of late, including the August 25 budget meeting, agenda items are not available until Friday or Saturday. Why the change of heart Ms. Walker?

Ms. Walker attempts to confuse the public about the budget adoption process by stating that the budget calendar submitted by retired Finance Director Barbara Smith called for adoption of the preliminary budget on June 23 and the final budget on September 8, 2009. However, Ms. Walker fails to acknowledge that for the first time in the history of Fillmore that a preliminary budget was not adopted by June 30 and that the preliminary budget was not adopted until August 25th. Ms. Walker provides no plausible reason as to why she stated on May 28 "we are on track, on board to have a budget before the council before the end of June".

Ms. Walker stated that "Mr. Pennell also located an additional $750,000 in property taxes and $435,000 in motor vehicle in-lieu tax, for a total of $1.185 additional revenue". Ms. Walker, you just don't "locate" $1.185 million in revenue, it was always there, it's just in the city's haste to "reformat" the budget it was overlooked by your paid consultant's and city staff. Why did it take from April 23 to August 10 for Mr. Pennell to locate this money (it did not show up until the August 10 draft). And where did this money come from? I believe it came from the hard work of previous administrations who worked diligently to improve the economic vitality of the community by supporting controlled and planned development in the community. Again, neither you or Mr. Pennell created this $1.185 million of new revenue, it does not just drop out of the sky, it takes years of hard work to grow the revenues of the city.

You state that Brian Sipes stated that the new budget format is "progess". What makes Mr. Sipes an authority? Isn't he one of your avid supporter's? And isnt't he planning to run on your platform for City Council next election? I think it is highly inappropriate for you as an elected offical to use your office to promote council candidates.

Ms. Walker, one thing we do agree on is that the City's finances appear to be in excellent shape, but it is not because you and your crew "reformatted" the budget. It is because of the prudent fiscal practices of prior administrations and the planned growth development plans that are finally coming to fruition. Again, you, Pennel and Wooten did not just invent $1.185 million in new revenues and you did not just invent the $5.3 million that is in reserves. This money did not fall out of the sky and I doubt that their is a money printing press at city hall. The money is there (even without the funds from the Sales Tax Agreements and the expense of defending those agreements) because of what was did in the past. You and your crew are now responsible for seeing that it is not mishandled in the future. A good place to start would be to take a close look at the generous salary increases you have included in your budget (another example of hypocrisy when the pre-election battle cry was that managers/mid-managers were overpaid and that their salaries should be cut). You may also want to look at your auditing and appropriation practices. I cannot find where or when the City Council ever appropriated any funds to pay Mr. Pennell beyond June 30 and that may be a problem for the auditors (even with the hand-picked auditor you and the Council will be selecting).

One question I forgot to ask
Submitted by Roy Payne on Wed, 08/26/2009 -

One question I forgot to ask Ms. Walker; why was it so important for you, Washburn, Brooks, Stroh and Creagle to report how much I made as a consultant when you were trying to get rid of me and it is not now important to disclose Mr. Pennell's cost to the city? By my calculations, Mr. Pennell has charged the city $100,000 for 4 months work. This equates to $300,000 per year which is 3-4 times my consulting cost for a years work. I guess if someone is willing to do your bidding, then the cost does not matter.

To the Editor:
Re. Martin Farrell’s 26th Realities piece since last November expressing his undying fondness for council member Conaway and his disdain for all the others:

Farrell claims that Mayor Walker has shunned ethics “as she has steadfastly refused to sign the city ethics code.” A reminder, nobody signs the city ethics code because there isn’t one.

This brings us to the ethicality of the sales tax scheme. Thank goodness the judge ruled in Fillmore’s favor. We didn’t break the law but did we act ethically? Farrell thinks so. The scheme’s front man, Roy Payne thinks so. Payne went so far as to justify the deal by invoking Karl Marx – “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” He said that Fillmore needs the money more then Livermore; a plausible argument but Payne, a Marxist? Who knew? Because of our scheme the cities of Livermore and Industry lose roughly $5.3 million per year combined. Fillmore sees about $800,000 of that, the company collecting the tax gets back roughly $2.26 million as does the out-of-state broker of the deal (not a bad days work). Does Payne’s Marxist justification work here too? No. In fact Payne has tried to run from his culpability in the matter; after taking all the credit for his list of accomplishments he tries to lay the sole responsibility for the sales tax scheme on the council. They do deserve some but Payne is the primary owner, it was his baby.

It’s been reported that Fillmore is the only California city to do this and we succeeded in bringing the state legislature and the governor together in a rare bipartisan effort to pass a law forbidding the practice in the future. If only Payne had applied the Golden Rule instead of Karl Marx, or how about common sense? If every city and business adopted the practice the sales tax revenue for every city would be reduced by 85%.

Payne did raise an interesting ethics question; should we now give the money back? It’s called the “whore’s dilemma”; ashamed of the practice but can’t feed the family any other way – what to do?
Bob Stroh
Fillmore

Responce to Bob Stroh from Roy Payne:
Well, I see Bob Stroh is at it again. Bob, what can I say about the Sales Tax Agreement that has not already been said? I will rely on the judgment of the Superior Court rather than your warped judgment to determine the appropriateness of my actions. Judge Michael L. Stern (Los Angeles Superior Court) stated in his ruling, “The evidence submitted by plaintiffs for their argument is tenuous.” And, “…there is no showing of any malfeasance or bad intent.” Judge Stern’s ruling also entitles Fillmore to an award of attorneys’ fees.

Oh Bob, I am also glad to note that after harping on this issue for almost a year now, you finally acknowledge that the City Council (including Walker) were the ones who approved the Sales Tax Agreement, not me; which makes your whole argument about ethics rather tenuous. On the one hand you want to condemn my “ethics” for supporting the sales tax agreement, and on the other you want to defend Walker for not having enough ethics to sign the city ethics code, but do not condemn her ethics for supporting the Sales Tax Agreement.

On August 19, 2009 Fillmore Mayor Walker said, “The ruling of the court only confirms the city's position on the agreements. This is a tremendous victory in more ways than one”.

By the way, I never once said that Fillmore needs the money more than Livermore, so do not try to put words in my mouth to justify your own convoluted logic. I stand by my remarks of June 11th 2009 when I stated “It appears Livermore certainly needs it more than Fillmore to pay for the 179 Livermore city employees whose salaries exceed $100,000 per year and to maintain their cost of per capita services at a rate twice that of Fillmore”.

Bob, I know you are disappointed that Fillmore won the law suit, and I know you are going to be even more disappointed that the City budget does not require cuts in expenditures and in fact the City is adding three full-time paramedic positions to the great volunteer Fillmore Fire Department (which you tried to get dismantled). How many other things (including your rabid opposition to the new Sewer Plant) are you going to be proven wrong about?
Roy Payne

To the Editor:
Another week and another letter from Bob Stroh
Collectively Fillmore yawned.
Steve Conaway
Fillmore City Councilman

To the Editor:
Nancy Pelosi - AMERICA’S BETTER STIMULUS PACKAGE
You must read the following quote from the Speaker of the House carefully.
'We need to raise the standard of living of our poor, unemployed and minorities. For example, we have an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in our country who need our help along with millions of unemployed minorities. Stock market windfall profits taxes could go a long way to guarantee these people the standard of living they would like to have as 'Americans'.'
It is more than evident that the elected representatives in Washington in general and California in particular are morons of the first degree, not even educated enough to know the definition of “illegal”. There is no intelligent reason for American citizens to be taxed to support illegal aliens or immigrants who have chosen to come to America without proper documentation. These misfits must be removed from office, and my suggestion is that we start first with Nancy.
Consider the immediate financial benefit received from such an action.
We save the American tax payer approximately $6,500,000 per year which is spent for her personal travel. These funds could be used to hire many more policemen. Their primary duty would be to round up illegal, undocumented aliens and deport them. This action would save the tax payers more than $100,000,000 per year, probably much more, as medical costs and insurance premiums would be reduced, costs that are charged to citizens that pay their bills.
The above are only the immediate financial benefits. Jobs would be created that are now filled by ‘illegal’ aliens. Jobs could be created to patrol our harbors and borders to insure that they do not return. Possibly the more important benefit would be that the American citizen can send a message to our elected representatives that they must shape up or prepare to ship out.
Nancy Pelosi should be allowed to find a job and work 20 years for her retirement. She should be allowed to be covered by the same inferior government sponsored medical coverage that she proposes for the citizens. Her private transportation should be taken away and she should be allowed to ‘thumb’ her way home to California. If we are fortunate, she might not even come back to California. WITHOUT ANY DOUBT, WE MUST ISSUE A RECALL FOR THIS IDIOT.
Stan Mason,
Fillmore, CA

To the Editor:
Fillmore Unified School District First Day
I am so very pleased with Fillmore Unified School District. What a great place for kids. The first week of school has been outstanding! I work with some of the staff in a part time position and hold my co-workers in the highest esteem. However, my greatest appreciation comes from what I see on the outside as a parent looking in. My biggest concern was my child entering Fillmore Middle School.
For the last 8 years I have participated in many school committees, parent groups and advisory boards. I have worked closely with Fillmore’s district administration on several occasions and been apart of the “big picture”. I have heard the good and the bad, been there for the setting and completely of goals and also witnessed the district handle a number of serious challenges. I have wanted to be apart of my children's education as much as possible. I wanted to know everything about the district, I wanted to be prepared for the looming roomers of how bad everything was going to be. Interestingly enough, the more I learned the more devoted to the district I became.
Today, I speak only as a mother, though I have knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes it’s what my children’s experience that is most important to me. My son walked on to has elementary campus as if he was returning home. He was greeted by his principle and then into the room of his very devoted teacher. My son is enjoying the unique experience of having the same teacher at two grade levels. The respect he has for his teacher is second none, a very traditional relationship of mutual adoration. My middle school student was greeted in the same comforting manor. As we walked together around the campus in a constant flow of children, I was as nervous as she was. Strategically placed for quite a distance along the path, we encountered middle school administration. With welcoming encouraging words each staff member greeted all the children they could. Balloons flew above the entrance gate and below the principle tried his best to welcome enthusiastically every one of his students. What a perfect beginning to such a huge mile stone in a child’s life. My daughter came home from her 1st day of middle school more excited than she has ever been the first day of school. My son was the very same way. I realize that no school is perfect and there will be bad days and good days. But the first day of school could not have been better. Thank you Fillmore Unified for caring so much and starting the year off right!
Tressa Saviers
Fillmore

To the Editor:
BARDSDALE 4-H THANKS ANIMAL BUYERS
Twelve members of Bardsdale 4-H raised and sold large animals at the recent Ventura County Fair. This weekend they will hold their annual Appreciation Banquet to thank the generous buyers who purchased their animals at the Junior Livestock Auction held August 14th, 2009. Nine members raised pigs: Brooke Aguirre’s pig bought by Fruit Growers Lab, Chris Berrington’s pig bought by Rigo and Laura Landeros, Natalie Garnica’s pig bought by Santa Clara Valley Bank, Adrian Gonzales’s pig bought by Beylik Farms, Daniel Gonzales’s pig bought by Burns Equipment Services, Sonya Gonzales’s pig bought by P.W. Gillibrand Co, Jessica Manginelli-Beylik’s pig bought by Quality Ag, Inc., Jessica Mayhew’s pig bought by AAA Propane, and Michael Mayhew’s pig bought by McKnight Farm Labor and Clint McKnight.
Lambs were also sold by three members: Timmy Klittich’s lamb purchased by Burns Equipment Services, Samantha Manginelli-Beylik’s lamb purchased by Rigo & Laura Landeros and Quality Ag, and Tabitha Tucker’s lamb purchased by Rosalie Meyer of Ventura.
The 45 members of Bardsdale 4-H also had over 100 other prize winning entries at the fair including table settings, crafts, sewing projects, posters, poultry, succulent dish gardens, pygmy goats, woodworking projects, eggs, and produce. Everyone did a great job and learned a lot in their projects throughout the year. A special thanks to our patient adult leaders for teaching the members new and interesting skills and knowledge!
New member and project sign-ups will start at our next general meeting on September 28th at 7 p.m. at the Memorial Building. Contact Cindy Stines (524-0650) or Cindy Klittich (524-4466), Community Club Co-Leaders, with any questions.
Thanks again to our generous buyers who make raising an animal for fair worthwhile!
Cindy Klittich

Reporter Sought - The Fillmore Gazette is looking for someone to cover City Council and School Board meetings. Call 524-2481 if interested. Congratulations to Mariandrea Mueller, our out-going reporter, on her new position as a Junior Litigation Paralegal in Century City. Andrea, thank you for all the great coverage this past year.

 


 
Letters to the Editor
August 20th, 2009

To the Editor:
Good customer service is a dying breed. So I want to publicly thank two businesses in town for their kindness--Element Computers and Walt’s Jewelry. Both performed small repair jobs for me at no cost. Walt’s repaired a pair of eyeglasses after another business in town refused to. So thank you to both for showing good business sense and being good neighbors.
Wanda Castel de Oro
Fillmore

To the Editor:
It was suggested by a resident of El Dorado, and I know others in the park believe this, that the reason that we are faced with a condo conversion that we don’t want, is because of the rent control movement of the last 2+ years. I want to illustrate how silly that notion is. This belief is based on the assumption that the owner and management are seeking revenge and want to prevent rent control.
1. In all of our encounters with Mike Cirillo, the owner of the management company, he has never shown an ounce of emotion. Revenge comes from emotion. So throw that idea out. 2. The initiative that the owner is sponsoring says it is rent control! Throw that idea out as well.
What is really going on?
When Mike Cirillo took over management of our park rents were fairly low. He has stated to us that his only concern is to make the maximum amount of money for the owner. Since then he has systematically raised rents so that we have many vacancies due to the high rents. He knows he can’t go much higher and still be able to collect rent, many more of us would have to leave.
When a condo conversion happens the park is appraised as a commercial property (on the income flow). He is at the highest level of rents the market will bear. This will give him the assessment he desires. This is why he applied for the condo conversion. Simple math, a business decision that was easy for him to make. The reason it happened while a rent control movement was going on was because many residents in the park could see the writing on the wall and knew we were being squeezed out.
If Cirillo’s condo conversion goes through the lots will likely have a price tag of about $150,000. If 300 lots sell that’s $45 million on a property with a 37 year old infrastructure and a tax assessor value of a little over $3 million. That’s kind of a no brainer if you ask me.
Dave Roegner
Fillmore

To the Editor:
In two town hall meetings on health care, my president, in response to statements that the private insurance companies cannot compete with government option health care said "Of course they can, Fedex and UPS are doing fine, its the postal service that is always in trouble."
On its face that statement is true. What President Obama did not say is that the Postal service delivers mail to every household six days a week (First class for $ 0.44 an ounce). The others are prohibited by law from delivering First Class Mail, so their job is much easier.
He made a Quotable sound bite at the expense of the Postal service, out of context to the facts. Misleading at best, distorting information by omission of facts, misdirection of thought like a illusionist, disingenuous by design. You decide!
As for me, when someone is trying to convince me of something this important using patently obvious distortions such as this I turn it off. What can I really believe in any other statements?
Remember in Feb of this year we had to have the stimulus right now or unemployment will go to 8%. The stimulus got signed into law and unemployment is now 9.4%.
Whom and what do we believe?
Ray Johnson
Fillmore

 


 
Letters to the Editor
August 13th, 2009

To the Editor:
The recent city council meeting regarding the proposed initiative/ordnance showed Mayor Walker and councilwoman Hernandez are both guilty of misstatements regarding the February council meeting on rent control.
They both stated as reported by the Gazette mat El Dorado management had only abided by then- agreement for 15 days.
The agreement was that the management would offer residents a modified lease reducing the annual increases to no more than 3% or CPI which ever was greater. The management did everything they promised they would do.
All residents received notice mat if they wanted the modified lease to call the park manager and advise them. We did so and received a reduction to the 3% agreed to by the management If a resident did not contact management within a given time period, their lease was not modified.
This was the only promise made by management to avoid the rent control being considered by the council, so it is very apparent that Walker and Hernandez have a very short memory.
The rent control advocates advised their cohorts not to renew their leases, or the addendum, because if rent control came about the lease would preclude provisions of rent control from taking place.
All new leases since then have been at the 3% or CPI rate.
At least Walker and Hernandez owe the park management an apology for misstating the true facts.
Thank you.
Jim Heady

 


 
Letters to the Editor
August 6th, 2009

To the Editor:
I have resided in El Dorado for 34 years. I moved a coach here from San Diego. At the time rents were $100 per month less than in San Diego for a location comparable to El Dorado. Any increases have been reasonable and from a low starting point. Management has always been fair here and to my knowledge no one has ever been evicted for inability to pay rent. I am opposed to rent control in general because management has no incentive to keep the premise up if they aren't receiving an adequate income. However, the proposed ordnance is being sponsored by management. And I am certain they feel it gives them an adequate income. I think we can assume therefore that they can and will continue the same very good maintenance of the park.
The proposed initiative is actually better than the current5 year lease in my opinion, because low income renters will only have an increase based on CPI. This is in contrast to the lease which calls for a 3% increase or CPI, whichever is greater. Those who want to buy their land can do so.
People who can't or don't wish to buy their spaces can continue to rent until they want to sell. They would then sell both the coach and lot as a unit.
People favoring rent control have continually misrepresented that rents are going down with rent control. It is not going to happen. Rents will start and increase from the rent at the time any ordnance goes into effect.
It’s a better deal for all. I am sure the financial impact study for Fillmore will show the city will be better off with an ordnance vs. a family park, which any rent control ordnance will bring per management. Look at the money T.O. has spent trying to enact rent control similar to the Roegner plan. The city of San Rafael has spent hundreds of thousand dollars trying to enact rent control. They lost and have now appealed to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. More big bucks to spend in legal fees. Why should Fillmore waste taxpayer’s dollars to bring a family park, which few if any El Dorado residents want for rent control?
Thank you.
Jim Heady
Fillmore

To the Editor:
I am glad to see you and Bob Stroh have put your bickering behind you. Frankly, I grew weary of the two of you calling each other names quite some time ago. It sounded much too much like my grandsons second grade recess.
I am no doctor, nor psychiatrist. I have no medical training in mental illness, however, during my twenty-nine year career in law enforcement, I had the opportunity to detain many people for involuntary psychological evaluations.
Your renewed rants against Obama and the leftwing conspiracy, and your dire predictions for our countrys future sounds suspiciously paranoid. Your characterization of Sotomayor as a racist is a bit Shakespearean (you "doth protest too much"), our nation was not bankrupted in the last seven months, and our heritage, Christian or otherwise, cannot be destroyed. Whatever was garnered from past generations, or passed to future generations, is our heritage. If it morphs or evolves, so be it. The only constant in the universe is change.
With all you have been through in the last year, I worry for your health, Martin. I urge you to keep current on any meds your doctor might have prescribed.
Dennis DeCuir
Fillmore

To the Editor:
I was surprised that the preliminary city budget report went unreported by the local news media. I was not surprised by the report’s conclusions. In spite of the rosy projections given by the last city manager and finance director just a few months ago, even the most casual observer of the state of our economy and the housing crisis should have foreseen the trouble we find ourselves in. Many did. A year ago people (including Jamey Brooks, Gayle Washburn and then council member Patti Walker) were urging the past council to exercise restraint in handing out pay raises for top managers to no avail. Now we are told that at our current rate of spending we will be out of money in eighteen months; the cost-cutting will have unfortunate consequences for many people.
We are also confronted with the uncertainty created by the ill-conceived sales tax scheme. It has resulted in the state holding our sales tax revenue until a ruling is made on the lawsuit against Fillmore by the City of Industry and Livermore. We are now seeking a hearing with the state to get the money. To date our city attorney has requested over $500,000 to cover our attorney costs. If Fillmore does not prevail we could be facing a several million dollar loss. Do The Fillmore Gazette and The Sespe Sun think this story not newsworthy?
Bob Stroh
Fillmore

 


 
Letters to the Editor
July 30th, 2009

To the Editor:
More about laws and safety. I wish I had a dollar for every time I have witnessed a driver blow through a cross walk with someone waiting to cross. Not only is it common courtesy to stop for pedestrians, it is the law. The law reads that you must stop when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk or approaching it with intent to enter the crossing. The law is a little fuzzy about when you can proceed after you stop. I questioned one of our Deputy’s about this and he said when the person is past your lane and you will not make them uncomfortable by proceeding then it is OK. Now comes the little known and the most abused crossing law. The law states: A crosswalk is the extension of a sidewalk past the corner curb to the sidewalk on the other side of the street even though it is not painted. If you hit someone crossing a street under these conditions you will be at fault. For example, how about the intersection at River St. and Vons shopping center? It crosses four lanes of Highway 23 going to Moorpark. Yep…..that’s a crosswalk by law. See how many unmarked crosswalks you can find in our town. Remember, fines near schools are double. Courtesy and patience is what makes a good driver.
While we are talking about crossings, I have a pet peeve. I can remember when I was a kid it was just common courtesy to hurry through a crossing when someone stopped for you. When I am in a crossing I still make the old body move as fast as it is capable as I know how much I appreciate others when they show the same courtesy. It seems the ones that do pick up their speed are mostly older people, some that have a hard time just slowly walking across. Very rarely do I see the younger generation get in a higher gear. I guess courtesy and good manners are not taught these days. I am hoping that I recognize some of them later in life when I am crossing and they are driving. I sure will not hurry and may even stop to tie my shoe.
John Heilman
72 year native

To the Editor:
As many of you know, I returned to California in June, to spend two weeks with family and friends. During those days I was able to visit Fillmore many times, to speak with old friends and just drive around familiar places. It also gave me the chance to hear many so-called explanations of what seems to be causing the divisive atmosphere in town.
Since my return to my home here in Northeast Texas, I've had time to think about the situation in Fillmore. It also brought back memories of January 1994, when a massive earthquake shook the town, its buildings and its people. What happened after that can only be called a miracle. Residents became a large family - working together to help, to console, to fix.
I don't recall a single argument about who should do what or what should be done. We just did it. Nobody cared who took the credit or who wasn't helping out enough.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if that same spirit of cooperation could permeate through Fillmore once again?
I also recall a time in the early '80s, when businesses were moving around like chess pieces, churches were changing hands and it got to the point where people didn't know what church or business to go to, or where it was. Then the Sespe Players put on "The Music Man" and somehow that was the calming influence and glue to bring it all back to sanity. It was like the whole town took a deep breath and relaxed.
I'm not sure if another performance of "The Music Man" would be enough to fix things in Fillmore today. But I do know that a calming influence is needed -- not more hysterical rhetoric -- to get Fillmore back to being a family once again. One can only hope.
Dorothy Lynch
Marshall, TX

To the Editor:
Let’s look at an example of the thinking of Fillmore’s leaders before 2009. We are now being sued for a scheme that has since been outlawed. Our former leaders saw fit to approve a deal that set up a sham office for a medical supply company in Fillmore in order to take away tax revenue earned in Livermore and the City of Industry, where they really do their business. Some lawyers saw this legal loophole and concocted a scheme of kickbacks to themselves, the company and to give Fillmore a small piece of the action. Now, morally everybody can see that this is dead wrong, but to our City leaders thought it was a fine idea and they agreed to do it. I say the moral compass of our past leaders made it necessary for them to leave their leadership positions. They did not represent the vast majority of Fillmore citizens. So now these past leaders are whining about how things are run now. I see nothing immoral going on at City Hall anymore and I thank the wise voters of this town for changing the leadership and saving us more embarrassment.
Dave Roegner
Fillmore

To the Editor:
On June 11th, Bob Stroh challenged the Gazette editor to provide any statement or evidence of the accusations supporting termination of staff members. This challenge was to result in a donation from Stroh or Farrell to contribute $250 to the Boys and Girls Club. Since then, the Gazette has strayed from that issue and gone down another twisted path. We haven't forgotten Mr. Farrell. Where's your evidence or your money? We want to support the Boys and Girls Club. They are in desperate need of funds right now.
Maryellen Alvarez
Fillmore

To the Editor:
I read letters to the editor and most are full of hate and discontent concerning local matters. I thought it was time for a little change. I often think of things that make me wonder how others feel. I write this in hopes that it will generate some letters to express the thoughts of others concerning this matter.
This letter is about "tipping for service rendered in a restaurant." Years ago the norm was to tip ten percent. Now it is pretty usual to tip between fifteen and twenty percent. Not being a "cheap skate" I follow these guide-lines even though, most of the time, I do it because; "it's the accepted thing to do." I don't quite understand the reasoning behind tipping by the "total of the bill." Let's use this scenario:
I order a small meal and drink for $8.00. A fellow next to me orders a lobster meal and drink that comes to $40.00. The waitress has taken the same amount of time to take our orders, give them to the cook, bring them to us, take our money and clean off the table. His tip is near $6.00 at 15% and figuring mine at the same 15% would come to about $1.20. His tip is five times that of mine. I cannot understand why he should be paying more for the same amount of service time. Please explain to me this difference; and don't say the guy that had the lobster had more money than me and could afford it.
Recently I treated my family and relatives to a meal. It was very nice; the waitress was good, and very busy. I paid for the meal, with all the others insisting they leave the tip, which turned out to be a generous $15.00. Later I asked them, "How much total time do you figure the waitress spent taking our order, serving it, refills, taking payment and cleaning after?” The general answer was, "Not over fifteen minutes." Figure it for yourselves, this comes to about $60.00 per hour plus earning minimum wage at $8.00. Am I missing something here? Is any semi-trained person worth this much? I never in my life as a professional trade’s foreman made this much per hour, even on overtime.
Is there a better way to figure tips? Good or bad I look forward to any serious response to this you might have. Let me and others hear from you.
Thank you,
John Heilman
74 year Fillmore native

 
Letters to the Editor
July 23rd, 2009

To the Editor:
Martin Farrell is not the only one watching this new council; I have observed their campaign and almost every meeting so far. I think Martins got this group pegged dead on. Their a little machine that has skill sets that lack anything to do with good leadership. They are on the council by organizing years of constant never ending attacks and criticisms of a council that was actually providing good stewardship for the City of Fillmore. During their tenure I’ve seen nothing but destruction and incompetence. They sure can dish it out so let them take a little heat. Keep it up Martin your on the right track.
Roger Keller

To the Editor:
I would like to thank Patrick Maynard, Fillmore’s Disaster Control Coordinator for helping the residents and volunteers of El Dorado Mobile Home Park’s Emergency Block Captain Program to achieve a greater level of awareness and performance necessary in the event of a severe emergency or disaster. With the cooperation of El Dorado Manager Helen Rosette, the Board of Voice of El Dorado Mobile Homeowners Association activated the Emergency Block Captain Program last year. Understanding its potential value, many HOA members as well as non-member residents have worked very hard to keep this program front and center.
Fillmore’s Fire Department along with Maynard at the helm held a very interesting and informative Emergency Training and CPR seminar on Saturday, July 11. Forty-three persons, mostly from El Dorado, attended the 4-hour session. On Saturday, July 18, Maynard and the Fire Department coordinated a live practice-run complete with mock victims with numerous injuries, smoke, darkened conditions, and emergency supplies. Twenty-three attendees successfully rescued, triaged and treated their 24 “young victims” with mock minor to critical injuries. Future classes and practices will be planned for the near future.
Many others including Allan Hair of El Dorado, The Gazette, The Sespe Sun and The Ventura Star also deserve a big “thank you” for helping to make the Emergency Block Captain Program a reality. Space is limited and you all know who you are.
Thank you again,
Paul Schifanelli

To the Editor:
Mr. Farrell, you commented that it is your business to criticize the activities of the council. If you were criticizing the activity you are correct, it is yours and the communities business; but that is not what your column is doing.
You also wanted to know who or whom you had slandered. Do not forget that slander means “false and defamatory statement concerning another”. Point in fact, on 11-13-08 you said in your Realities column“... Mr. Creagle was cited by a Sheriff’s deputy.” I personally communicated with Police Chief Tim Hagel. As of this date, he has confirmed that there is no record or document to show that Mr. Creagle was cited for this or any other matter that would be under the purview of the Ventura County Sheriff or the Fillmore Police Dept.
On more than one occasion you have indicated that council members have allowed one member of the public, Brian Sipes, to attend employee meetings. At least that is what you said on 4-30-09. Let me refresh your memory. You said “He (Brian Sipes) has been warming-up in the wings for quite a while and friends on the Katzenjammer Council provide him special privileges, such as passes to attend employee meetings. As a person of interest he is interviewed by the Ventura Star and receives a full council agenda packet.” Mr. Farrell. If you can prove that “passes” were given to Mr. Sipes to attend employee meetings by a council member, I suggest you provide that proof. If he was in attendance, it would have been only at staff’s recommendation or request. If you’d like to attend employee meetings, I am sure, if approved, it would be allowed. I am not sure where you are getting your information (though I have a suspicion). If you believe all you hear (which is indicated by your column) you may want to find a new informant.
With respect to Mr. Sipes, I do know that he is very interested in city government, a trait that should be applauded, not ridiculed. Mr. Sipes has chosen to be involved in the matters before the City Council. He made time to attend one of the open sessions relating to interviews for the Transitional City Manager. This meeting was properly noticed and he was the only “public member” to attend. Mr. Sipes is in attendance throughout most council meetings. Can you say the same? Your paper also receives a full copy of the council agenda packet. If Mr. Sipes does I am sure it is one he pays for or obtains from the city website. Again, can you say the same? For the community’s information, a complete copy of the council packet is available on line for the reading pleasure of anyone who is interested.
You have repeatedly targeted Mayor-Pro-Tem Gayle Washburn over her concerns and stance on the cost of the water treatment plant. Your July 9 editorial challenged Ms. Washburn to find any lies in your editorials. You allow for your “lies” to be “errors of fact”. So be it. Well, Mr. Farrell, I will provide you with an opportunity to correct an “error of fact”. On 03-05-09, you stated, “Ms. Washburn ... you (and your followers) have been foolish, and woefully ignorant, and fundamentally wrong in your insistence that City Engineer Bert Rapp has made a mistake in choosing the companies he has to design, build, and operate our plant. Maybe more to the point, you and yours have caused more than a year’s delay with plan approval and construction, which cost the city more than $1 million in wasted time and effort.” I took the time to delve into this “error of fact” and spoke to Mr. Rapp and as of this date there isn’t any information or documentation to support your assertions that there was a year’s delay or a $1 million additional cost as a result of Mayor Pro-Tem Washburn, or any of her “followers” in the plan approval or construction of the water recycling plant.
Then on 3-26-09 you said in your Realities, “Then there‘s the long-anticipated still-in-the-works Business Park plan, and our new state-of-the-art water treatment plant (under budget and ahead of schedule) which the Katzenjammers all vehemently oppose.” In order to correct your “error of fact”, on March 24, 2009, the support for the formation of a Community Facilities District to fund the infrastructure of the Business Park was unanimously supported by the current City Council. As for the water treatment plant, it is the responsibility of the council to use the citizen’s money (taxes) in a careful and effective manner. There is no disgrace if a council member uses his or her vote in opposition to what they believe is a misuse of public funds. And keep in mind that Fillmore’s sewer rates went up on July 1, 2009.
Your “Realities” column is not always based on reality, other than your own perception of reality. I know for a fact that many of your comments have not been fully researched. Some of which I have outlined in this commentary. You indicate that Ms. Washburn is not able to admit her mistakes, can you?
In the current column, you said that no finance director has appeared at council meetings since Barbara Smith retired. Obviously you were absent because the interim FD, John Wooner, did appear before the council on June 23, and he presented, at council’s request, a new format for the upcoming budget. Go back and look at the council meetings from the point Ms. Smith tendered her retirement notice and her last day. You will note she was not in attendance.
It is important to note that staff is a recommending body; not decision makers. As for Mr. Payne’s comments in his column last week, he, Tom Ristau, and Barbara Smith were all paid handsomely for their work. These employees fulfilled their obligations for the position they held. Some of their names are on the plaques that adorn various community buildings.
It would be shortsighted for a decision maker not to ask questions which are fiscally sound. Mr. Farrell and Mr. Payne believe it was fiscally sound to purchase property for the current site of the water treatment plant using public funds without so much as an appraisal or comparables to determine if the amount is just!
As for those employees who left they submitted their resignations or notice of retirement prior to any discussion by the council of any request by employees for an employment contract. It should be noted that it is rare for city employees, other than city managers and attorneys, to have contracts. Also for clarification, Mr. Rapp currently has a binding employee contract. Speaking of employees, as for patting past employees on the back, Mr. Payne in his recent column failed to give credit due to Steve McClary as he was the employee who penned “The last best small town in So. CA”.
I personally would like to know what you meant when on 4-30-09, you said, “My criticisms of Brooks, Washburn, Walker, Hernandez, and now Mr. Bartels, are intended to show that a series of bad decisions by the group has led the city into serious, long term, trouble, fiscal, legal, and as far as city staff goes, psychological.” Look at the items that have recently been listed on the executive session portion of the agendas. Most of these items were items the new council inherited. Are they the bad decisions you speak of?
Gayle, Jamey and I were the top vote getters in the past two elections. The question to be asked is why? Is it due to the fact that the home and business owners in Fillmore saw their sewer rates almost quadruple in two years? Is it because over 1500 citizens said they didn’t want 700 homes on 100 acres in North Fillmore and their elected officials ignored them? The people have a voice and it is their vote. They expect their vote to remain their voice.
Martin Farrell and Roy Payne are allowed their freedom of opinion; a freedom which I fully support as I have expressed repeatedly on my position on First Amendment Rights. Regardless, there may be members of the community who will take their comments as gospel. For that I could not remain silent.
Patti Walker
Fillmore

To the Editor, July 22, 2009:
On July 8th 2009 I penned a letter which the Fillmore Gazette ran under the title “Take Our Town Back?”. In that letter I closed by stating that the faction of Walker, Washburn and Brooks have been Deceitful, Hypocritical, speaking in Half-truths and I asked what does this cabal really believe, what do they really want and what have they really accomplished?

On July 19, 2009 Ms. Walker wrote a lengthy letter to the Fillmore Gazette and in that letter she listed what appears to be her three reasons as her justification for the election of the Walker, Washburn, Brooks cabal. Those three reasons were 1) executive session items that the “new council inherited”; 2) “the fact that the home and business owners in Fillmore saw their sewer rates almost quadruple in two years”; and 3) “citizens said they didn’t want 700 homes on 100 acres in North Fillmore and their elected officials ignored them”. Ms. Walker also stated in her letter “It is important to note that staff is a recommending body; not decision makers”.

Let’s look at the three reasons that Ms. Walker uses to justify “taking back our town”. First, Ms. Walker as you suggested to determine what executive session items the “new council inherited”, I have reviewed online the City’s website (Ms. Walker incorrectly alleges that “a complete copy of the council packet is available on line”…this is not true, staff reports are regularly missing from the online packets). It appears that from January 13, 2009 to July 23, 2009 the City Council has held 24 “behind closed doors” executive sessions. At thirteen (13) of those behind closed doors meetings the City Council discussed the appointment of a new City Manager. Ms. Walker the new council did not inherit that issue, they created it. At two of those meetings the City Council discussed the appointment of a new Finance Director. Ms. Walker the new council did not inherit that issue, they created it. At three of the “behind closed doors” meetings the City Council discussed the Sales Tax Sharing litigation. Ms. Walker, you were on the City Council and voted for those Sales Tax Sharing agreements, so I guess you are taking the blame for that litigation? Litigation was discussed at 14 of the behind closed door meeting, but no specific litigation is identified on the agenda so it is difficult to determine if the “new council inherited” those items and how many different cases are involved. So Ms. Walker, it looks like the majority of the executive sessions items were of your own doing and not something you inherited.

Second, you said in your letter “keep in mind that Fillmore’s sewer rates went up on July 1, 2009”. What have you and your cabal done to try and lower the rates? Answer, nothing! Your city council cabal did not even review the sewer pro forma this year to see if any sewer rate reductions could be achieved. The cabal simply passed on it and let the $80 per month sewer rate that was adopted by Ordinance 08-809 on June 10, 2008 (which Ms. Walker voted for last year) go into effect without even placing it on a council agenda for discussion. Cabal member Washburn claims to be an expert on the sewer pro forma spread sheet and it should have been a simple matter for her to review it in an effort to reduce the sewer rates. So I guess the “new council” is not as concerned about the rates as they led the public to believe when they were trying to get elected to office.

Third, regarding the 700 new homes in North Fillmore, why is the new council hiding from the public the fact that the passage of Measure I has rendered the Housing Element noncompliant with State Law and will require an unnecessary expenditure of city funds (estimated by the City Planner to cost $200,000) to correct the violations of state law? And why has the new council buried the draft Housing Element after the City paid a consultant $86,000 to prepare the document? Is it because the new council does not want to face the fact that they have no idea where to locate the 985 new housing units that must be planned for in the new Housing Element, plus the 350 units that were removed from the North Fillmore Plan by the passage of Measure I?

Ms. Walker in her letter attempts to discredit me by stating “Mr. Payne believes it was fiscally sound to purchase property for the current site of the water treatment plant using public funds without so much as an appraisal or comparables to determine if the amount is just!”.

First, remember what Ms. Walker stated earlier, she said “It is important to note that staff is a recommending body; not decision makers”. So let me remind Ms. Walker that the City Council and the City Attorney approved the purchase of the land, not me.

Second, the price of the land has very little to do with the sewer rates (the land cost is less than 1% of the total cost of the new water treatment plant).

Third, there are very few places you can place a sewer plant, it needs to be at the lowest elevation of the city because effluent runs down hill (Ms. Walker where would you put the plant?).

Fourth, we had a willing buyer who offered to sell us the land at a reasonable price and rather than use condemnation to secure the land, a mutually agreed to price was set, saving the city the cost of an appraisal and potential litigation (and time).

Fifth, the value of the land today is about 3-4 times what the city paid for it. Sixth, the purchase of the land helped to jump start the new business park which the new council cabal claims is one of their highest priorities.

Ms. Walker in her letter also attempt to discredit me by stating “Mr. Payne in his recent column failed to give credit to Steve McClary as he was the employee who penned ‘The last best small town in Southern California’ “. Ms. Walker again does not have her facts straight. The quote was first provided to the city by Mr. Dave Wilcox of Economics Research Associates in a report he prepared for the city in 1993 about the Downtown Specific Plan. After seeing Mr. Wilcox’s quote, I had it inscribed on a small promotional memento that was handed out to a group of developers that were invited to a developer meeting that the City hosted in late 1993 to get developer feedback on the new downtown specific plan and to try and recruit new businesses to our downtown. Following the January 1994 earthquake, Fire Chief Pat Askren had the slogan posted on the marquee of the Towne Theatre to help pump up citywide morale. Mr. McClary was not even working for the city when these three events happened.

In closing, Ms. Walker states in her letter “there may be members of the community who will take Mr. Payne’s comments as gospel”. Ms. Walker says “for that I could not remain silent”. Ms. Walker, you should have remained silent.
Roy Payne

Letter to the Editor:
RE: The Bob Stroh - Martin Farrell Saga
It's with deep regret for Fillmore,that Martin Farrell's deceptive comments will never come to fruition. I commend Bob Stroh for standing up for truth and common decency. In point, Bob Stroh is absolutely correct in one of his assertions that Martin Farrell's "Realities" section has harmed private citizens names within the community for malicious intent, nothing more or less. For example, Martin Farrell has lied when my name was shuffled into his loony tunes "Realities" section of the Fillmore Gazette--April 1st & April 29th.editions. I'll take this opportunity to clarify and put to rest these erroneous lies and constant bamboozlement of attacks arrowed at me.
Lie # 1
Martin Farrell, April 1, 2009, states:
"Waiting in the wings is another political wannabe, Brian Sipes. He is a card-carrying member of the Katzenjammer group, targeting Hernandez’ seat on the council. Should Sipes somehow defeat Hernandez in the coming election, it would be four to one, with Councilman Steve Conaway the last man standing for experienced, professional leadership."
THE TRUTH
Clearly at this point of time, I'm not targeting any council members seat. The next city council election is well over a year away. Right now, we as citizens need to encourage our Mayor and City Council to legislate forceful decisions that will spur our local economy to enhance our livelihood in Fillmore. Thus so far, in my opinion, we have seen thoughtful and proactive measures that intend to secure the succession of the future business parks and the current City Council has become supportive partners with our local downtown mercantile. Despite what we hear and read in the press; progress is being made at City Hall.
As for Councilman Conaway, the "last man standing for experienced,professional leadership" as Martin states, this satement is visibly and largely inaccurate.I'll write a letter some other time explaining Steve Conaway's lengthy efforts that have brought down the morale at the dais as well as stifling a collaborative, working relationship amongst his fellow colleagues on the council. Differing opinions is expected, but thwarting efforts of conducting City business within a diplomatic approach is wrong.
Lie's #2 ,3 and 4
Martin Farrell, April 29, 2009, states:
"I leave you with my last prognostication: card-carrying Katzenjammer, Brian Sipes, will be appointed to replace Councilwoman Laurie Hernandez. Brian is a Councilman-in-Waiting. He has been warming-up in the wings for quite a while and friends on the Katzenjammer Council provide him special privileges, such as passes to attend employee meetings. As a person of interest he is interviewed by the Ventura Star and receives a full council agenda packet. Surely he is in the fast track to join Katzenjammer fame and council cluelessness."
THE TRUTH
Councilwoman Hernandez has not resigned and from my knowledge, Hernandez has no intentions on resigning, hence, I cannot be appointed..period. However, if a resignation does occur, then there is a stringent process that must be undertaken to comply with city and state codes. We as a City experienced this in 2007 when former Councilman Ray Dressler resigned over health concerns.
Moreover on the stated accusations; I have never received or inquired for certain "Special Privileges", "Passes to Attend Employee Meetings" or a "Full Council Agenda". All of these outlined accusations are boldfaced lies that Martin Farrell has emblazoned in his editorials with a slimy quest to subvert my reputation as a private citizen and business owner in the community.
Another nonsensical accusation that Martin Farrell has lied about is that I am some sort of puppet for Mayor Pro-tem Washburn, Councilman Brooks as well as Mayor Walker. The truth is very simple to explain. Never once has Martin Farrell ever questioned my stances on any such local issues. Martin Farrell precluded his judgment as to what my opinions are instead of doing his research so that the truth can be echoed accurately.
So I ask the public; Doesn't Fillmore deserve responsible and ethical journalism? In fact I do, and hopefully Fillmore will discover other credible venues to receive their local news. There are choices out there.
To conclude my letter, I ask the public to faithfully question all accusations made by Martin Farrell and the Fillmore Gazette in the future, so the truth will be unequivocally clear.
Brian N.Sipes,
resident of Fillmore

To the Editor:
Re. Martin Farrell’s nineteenth Realities column attacking any and/or all of the council members except Steve Conaway since the election: Although he didn’t print my last letter Martin asked me to be specific in naming anyone he has slandered or made gross fallacious claims against – easy, how about me? Realities 6-3-09, you told your readers that I “have been a regular, outspoken supporter of these views (to get rid of the city employees Martin specified), in print and at the dais.” You were asked to prove it (Letter 6-10-09) and you said you would (Realities 6-10-09); it could be accomplished very easily by reading my letters to your own newspaper just back to the election. No need for “scientific speculation”; everyday common sense will get the job done. Obviously you couldn’t prove it because it never happened. As you intimated, what may have been an honest “error of fact” becomes a lie when allowed to remain uncorrected. You’ve never retracted or corrected the false claim; hence, you lied to your readers about me. I occasionally see Kevin McSweeney and Bert Raap and would appreciate it if you set the record straight.
The same applies regarding your claim that Bill Bartels is not up to the job of city manager, you offered as evidence the need to hire two people to assist him. It was pointed out to you in Roy Payne’s recent piece that the only people hired were the ones to do the jobs of the vacant positions; they were not hired as Bartels’ assistants. You chose to let that “error of fact” (or was that “legitimate hyperbole”?) remain uncorrected making it a lie thus besmirching Bartels’ reputation.
You are entitled to your opinion about Gary Creagle’s time on the council but I certainly don’t remember it as you label it, were you in Fillmore then? I seem to remember that he served for four years and didn’t seek reelection. On the council during his tenure was Deloris Day, Pat Quinn, Roger Campbell, I think Hub Cloyd and some I don’t recall. It’s irrelevant but you go ahead with your rant against him, he’s a big boy and can take care of himself.
Martin asked me to “provide evidence of any [of Conaway’s] non-objectivity [as a result of his trip to Washington D.C.] First off, Martin, you may not be helping Conaway by acting as his surrogate because you’re getting some facts wrong thus giving the impression that there is something to hide. You said that Conaway took the trip “with full knowledge and approval of city council, legal counsel, and after much discussion” (Realities 7-8-09.) You are wrong. Council minutes for the Jan. 9 and 23, 2007 meetings show that at the end of each meeting Conaway announced that he would be traveling to Washington D.C. to make a presentation at the Mayors Conference. The presentation was made two days later. There was no discussion and no vote of approval or disapproval. Nothing more was said publicly about it until sometime after Mar. 7, 2007. Upon his return Conaway gave no report to the council, as is the custom and full details of the trip were made public by an international watchdog organization. At that time we were told that the city attorney had given his okay. Remember, Conaway spoke at the Mayor’s Water Council – American Water is one of only four full members on the board. Hundreds of Fillmore citizens asked for help in lowering their sewer bill and the idea of reopening the bidding process was discussed; Conaway stood firm in his support for American Water’s contract and was not in favor of reopening the bidding process. Some may believe that a trip like that would have no bearing on a council member’s objectivity; I’m not one of them.
Martin also asked me to comment on Roy Payne’s column(s) but I don’t have room this week.
Bob Stroh
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Bob Stroh needs to get his facts straight. His latest letter to the Fillmore Gazette is a prime example of the half-truths, hypocrisy and outright deceit that he and the council cabal have been engaged in for the last 3-4 years.
In his letter he says the city’s sales tax revenue is being held by the state because of a deal that I made. As I have pointed out time and time again and as Walker recently stated “staff is a recommending body; not decision makers”. If the truth be known the only way that the agreement could be entered into was for the City Council to approve it and Walker voted for the sales tax agreement that is under litigation, but Stroh and his cronies don’t want the public to know that so they try to shift the blame to me. Further, to my knowledge, the only sales tax money that is being held by the State is the sales tax revenue related to the Sales Tax Agreement, not the general city-wide sales tax revenues.

If the City Council cabal is relying on the Sales Tax Agreement revenues being held by the state to balance the budget, then they have been making foolish unwise decisions about the use of city funds. When the Sales Tax Agreements were initially approved, it was clearly the policy of the City Council to only use those monies for one-time expenses and not to rely on those revenues to balance the budget because it was assumed that the revenues would be temporary in nature. The City never used those monies to balance the budget when I was City Manager.

Regarding the $85,000 per year savings that the City Council presumably is saving by not filling the temporary position that I held, again Stroh speaks in hypocritical half-truths. In previous letters Stroh has argued that I was paid by developers and not by the City for the work I was doing and now he wants you to believe that the City used city monies to pay me for my work and that the city will be $85,000 ahead which is not true. You can’t have it both ways Mr. Stroh. Developers reimbursed the city for about 50% of the work I did for the city each year (the same way the staff at city hall is paid when they work on developer projects). The reason for this is to save the taxpayers of Fillmore money and not have the taxpayers paying for development projects within the City. So there is no $85,000 per year savings to the City.

Regarding Stroh’s claim that “$1.5 million front money for a mandatory well for the new business park was cut in half (by the new city council) while still fully supporting the park’s development”, my intent and approach with the developers was to have them fund the entire amount of the well and no front money required by the City. If you read my resignation letter of February 3, 2009 you will see that I stated that I “Led the effort to perform an updated Water Assessment Study to secure $1.2 million in funding from the Business Park developers (if CFD 8 is formed) for the construction of Water Well 9”. The City Council did not want me to finish my work on the Business Park and questioned my integrity and my value to the City and said I had no right to speak out on issues affecting the City so I chose to resign rather than to work for the new council.

If I had been able to continue, then there would have been no cost to the City for a new well. So if Stroh wants to give the new council credit for spending $750,000 of taxpayer money for a Water Well that is the responsibility of new development then go for it, but don’t claim I had anything to do with the City spending $1.5 million or $750,000 because I did not.

Last, regarding the City budget, the new City Council has made no efforts whatsoever over the last six months to try and anticipate the impacts on the city budget of the global economic downturn and more specifically the state economic downturn. The City Council is just going to use the prior management at city hall as the scapegoat for any shortfalls in the city budget instead of taking responsibility for their failure to act in a timely manner. Does anyone really believe that the City should have spent the last 3 months and paying an outside consultant $36,000 in trying to change the format of the City budget to make it look prettier? Walker, Washburn and Brooks need to try and explain that expense!
Roy Payne

 
Letters to the Editor
July 9th, 2009

To the Editor:
From the last election to last week Martin Farrell, in his Realities column, using over 300 column inches, or by my estimation, about two-and-a-half full newspaper pages, has attacked, with the exception of Steve Conaway, all of the council members, Bill Bartels and a few private citizens with slanderous and grossly fallacious claims. When confronted with the truth he deflects. Unbelievably, last week he wouldn’t apologize for besmirching Bartels’ reputation because of some fiction he created about my comments regarding Conaway’s trip to D.C. Okay, let’s go over that trip again.
But first, Martin criticized council member Washburn for insisting that a new project go out to bid instead of just giving AECOM (formally Boyle Engineering [Glen Hille]) another no-bid contract as Bert Rapp recommended; they’ve gotten 37 no-bid addendums (around $6.5 million worth) not including those not related to the sewer project (maybe $3.5 million). Glen Hille, of AECOM, made his 45 minute pitch to get the contract without having to bid it and Conaway argued for that. Now, back to Conaway’s D.C. trip:
Please recall from the trip emails released by the city:
- From American Water to Glen Hille: “happy new year partner. Just checking in to see if we know whether the Mayor or Vice Mayor will be representing the city?”
- From Glen Hille to Tom Ristau: “Have we received confirmation from Steve?”
- From Bert Rapp to Steve Conaway: “Steve, Are you able to go to Washington D.C. on January 25th to make a presentation on our DBO for the Water Recycling Plant? All expenses are paid by the conference.”
- From the City to the U.S. Mayors Conference: “Mr. Anderson, I have attached receipt reimbursements for Mayor Steve Conaway with American Water…”
- From American Water to Steve Conaway: “…you fly roundtrip between Burbank and National Airport (which is located only 15 minutes from our hotel).”
Although all very legal, the relationship between American Water, Glen Hille, Bert Rapp and Steve Conaway and new member, Martin Farrell looks and sounds a lot like the ‘good ol’ boys club’. Does anyone really believe that Conaway can be objective when it comes to deciding whether Glen Hille’s AECOM gets a no bid contract or if it’s opened up to competitive bids possibly saving us money?
It’s the people’s money Martin, thank God we have council members like Gayle Washburn, Jamey Brooks and Mayor Patti Walker who understand their responsibilities to the people. Trust me, they won’t be taking any trips paid for by companies dealing with the City of Fillmore; Steve Conaway still can’t say the same.
Bob Stroh
Fillmore

To the Editor:
I used to enjoy reading the editorial section until Martin Farrell embarked on some kind of campaign to personally discredit certain members of the City Council. Week after week, his poison pen has continuously dishonored these city officials. Comments have been unprofessional and down right shameful for a person who represents a community newspaper.
Our civil liberties and free speech allow us to express varying points of view regarding actions, decisions and policies made by our City Council. But, to openly disrespect and ruthlessly attack the characters of those who serve our community is unconscionable. Mr. Farrell, if you believe you’re capable of demonstrating a higher level of competency than our current Council members, you certainly have the option to run for a seat in the next election. In the meantime—GIVE IT A REST!
Sandy Pella
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Dear Fillmore Gazette:
I am a paid subscriber to the Fillmore Gazette, even though I could read the paper on line for free, because I feel we need to support our local paper financially. I do not live within the City limits, therefore I have not voted for or against any of the elected officials and have no axe to grind in city politics. BUT… what happens in Fillmore affects us all.
The last few months after reading the letters to the editor and the editorial columns between Martin Farrell, Bob Stroh, and others, I have been left with a slightly sick feeling. Are you all going to constantly dwell in the past? Rehash old issues? What good does that do? There are so many positive aspects to our Fillmore community that could be featured in the space you are taking up with your attacks on each other. Why not spend the time and energy expended attacking each other and rehashing past events that cannot be changed, in coming up with positive solutions to the problems currently being faced. My grandmother always said a house divided cannot stand; is this what we want for our community.
I also watched a video tape of the June 23rd City Council meeting and that was a real eye opener. Why not leave your personalities at the door and take up your responsibilities as council members to do your best for the City of Fillmore.
Thank you,
Donna McKinzie Voelker
Fillmore

To the Editor:
The editor of this paper has for 10 months now, engaged in a malicious negative campaign with ill intent against me, other council members, citizens and city staff members.
I feel sad for the community that this divisive individual chooses to hurt others.
Many of you have called and contacted me in dismay and shock. The love and support I receive from friends and supporters sustains me and I thank you deeply.
I guarantee that Mr. Farrell cannot point to any written or spoken word where I have abused or threatened any staff member. There are many other statements made that are outright lies.
I will never disrespect anyone for disagreeing with me. But I have no respect for libelous, slanderous liars.
The comments coming from Farrell's editorials are shocking, hateful and disruptive to the community. I am always open to ideas and criticism if there's a way to improve my efforts, but that is not what we are getting from Mr. Farrell. What a sad commentary for our City. This is not what our city is about and with a lot of hard work and forgiveness we can always work together if some would only try.
Mr. Farrell’s lies and malicious, divisive and hateful words need to stop. I am expecting an apology and a retraction. And in the future, any comments about me need to be based on facts -not gossip or lies.
Gayle Washburn
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
July 2nd, 2009

To the Editor:
From the last election to last week Martin Farrell, in his Realities column, using over 300 column inches, or by my estimation, about two-and-a-half full newspaper pages, has attacked, with the exception of Steve Conaway, all of the council members, Bill Bartels and a few private citizens with slanderous and grossly fallacious claims. When confronted with the truth he deflects. Unbelievably, last week he wouldn’t apologize for besmirching Bartels’ reputation because of some fiction he created about my comments regarding Conaway’s trip to D.C. Okay, let’s go over that trip again.(Bob Stroh)... Editor's note: LETS NOT! Please refer to this week's editorial.

To the Editor:
It’s sad to see that our government will strike down an initiative that didn’t follow the formatting of a petition and will do nothing to an initiative that lies to get signatures to qualify it. The owner of El Dorado used professional liars to coerce voters into signing their initiative telling voters that theirs was replacing my initiative, therefore stealing the signatures of my popular initiative. I have several affidavits attesting to the fact that these were the tactics used to gather signatures. The truth is that El Dorado’s owner’s initiative is nothing like my initiative. My initiative was designed to protect the lifestyle of every homeowner in El Dorado. The initiative proposed by the owner of El Dorado is about selling us their lots, typically at 3 to 4 times the appraised value. Their initiative wants the City to provide loans to us to buy lots. Where is the City going to get the money to loan us? Why should the City be exposed to this risk?
The few homes that have sold this year were sold for a fraction of what they would sell for in any other park in the county. Our high rents (about $300 a month more than Rancho Santa Paula) have cost us all about $30,000 in home value minimum. That’s close to a million dollars of our equity in their pockets (302 spaces). It costs about $150 per month per space to run this park, they charge about $650 average. That’s not excessive?
Dave Roegner
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
June 25th, 2009

To the Editor:
Re. the “challenge”: Martin Farrell can’t substantiate his reckless claim about what I said regarding some city employees so instead of manning up and admitting he was wrong and apologizing to the people of Fillmore for misleading them about the matter he runs hiding behind righteous indignation, childish name-calling, avoidance and his latest, desperate rhetorical questions. Typical Farrell behavior; cast aspersions and when challenged for proof, run for cover. I assume Martin that most of the people who read your newspaper are grownups; middle school bullying only works in middle school and quite frankly looks rather silly when employed by old men. Have you apologized yet to Bill Bartels and the city for the false statements you made about him that were ironically refuted by Roy Payne? Or any of the other people you have so freely lied about? Does the title ‘newspaper publisher’ mean not having to ever say you’re sorry? Credibility has to be earned over time and can be lost very quickly – Martin, you have a lot of work to do.
Bob Stroh
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
June 18th, 2009

To the Editor:
Driving on Central Avenue in Fillmore has become quite something these days thanks to all the work of the City. Hope you have noted the new paving, the new parking slot markings, crosswalks, along with the flowers around the new clock , it is very attractive and makes a great show to Fillmore-ites plus our visitors. Our thanks to the city personnel for decking us up!
It quite a sight to view the white roses--in full bloom--on Central Avenue. Our thanks to the personnel who do the work!
Conway Spitler
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Re. the “challenge” – giving Martin Farrell a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate his integrity to his readers: If Martin can prove his claim that I have written and spoken at the dais supporting the unconditional termination of a group of city employees he has identified, then I will contribute $250 to the Fillmore Boys and Girls Club. If he can’t prove his claim then he will make the same contribution and the loser will apologize. He hasn’t accepted the challenge and his confident assertion that I “have been a regular, outspoken supporter of these views…,” has turned into something like, it may take a few weeks of searching to find the evidence.
Regarding council member Conaway’s trip to Washington D.C.: While addressing the city council on April 22, 2008, I said, “I don’t believe the Mayor profited or realized any personal gain from his relationship with American Water.” I went on to explain that I was talking about the trip. Steve wasn’t at that meeting so I emailed the text to him the next day. I will admit that although my statement on March 19, 2009, is factually correct there may have been some who were unfamiliar with my previous statement and assigned a meaning unintended by me. Also, if anyone is interested in how the Mayor’s Water Council (MWC), who invited Conaway to speak in D.C., is tied to American Water let me know and I will get you the information along with the emails organizing the trip between the MWC, American Water, Glen Hille, Tom Ristau, Bert Rapp and Steve Conaway. Shortly after Conaway’s trip hundreds of Fillmore residents asked the city to reopen the bidding process in an attempt to find a cheaper solution to our sewer problem (like Santa Paula and Piru did.). While a small restaurant owner’s sewer bill went up $24,000 per year (she went out of business) Conaway continued to speak in favor of American Water. His ability to be objective after the trip has always been my main concern.
Bob Stroh
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
June 11th, 2009

To the Editor:
In response to Roy Payne’s Letter to the Editor, June 4, 2009, I’d like to clarify some of the amounts set out in his “Before and After” table.
On June 29, 2005, the City Council approved Mr. Payne’s Special Project Manager Fee Agreement providing for a retainer of $2000 each month paid from the General Fund and Redevelopment Agency (and water and sewer) accounts. The retainer covered 16 hours of service each month. Additional hours were charged at $125 an hour. Mr. Payne was provided, at city expense, a cell phone and work station. From his date of retirement (August 2005) to his resignation (February 2009), Mr. Payne received a total sum from the city $317,928 for work performed pursuant to the Agreement.
Ms. Spangler’s work is similar in nature to Mr. Payne’s in that she is working on the business park fee structure and, like Mr. Payne’s fees when he provided his services on items relating to the business park, her fees are paid for by the developers within the business park project area. Ms. Spangler is performing the work for $100 per hour, a reduction of $25 per hour compared to Mr. Payne’s rate.
As for Mr. Bartels, he was provided an additional $10 an hour only for that period of time he took on the additional task of Interim City Manager which was approximately six weeks.
Patti Walker
Mayor, Fillmore

To the Editor:
Blog response by Roy Payne regarding Livermore Sales Tax Agreement
Submitted to Blogs & Forums by Roy Payne on Mon, 06/08/2009 - 9:42am.
Re: Livermore Sales Tax Agreement
Oogie Boogie, Legal yes, but since the Washburn, Brooks, Westling, Creagle, Stroh, Walker, Sipes cabal find it so morally offensive that Fillmore entered into a legal Sales Tax Agreement; I suggest they give the money back to Livermore. It appears Livermore certainly needs it more than Fillmore to pay for the 179 Livermore city employees whose salaries exceed $100,000 per year and to maintain their cost of per capita services at a rate twice that of Fillmore.
Timm Herdt’s article in the Sunday, June 7, 2009 Ventura County Star stated “Officials from the San Francisco Bay Area city of Livermore say the Fillmore deal costs their city about $2 million a year in lost sales taxes, even though they continue to deal with the traffic and other public-service effects created by a 165,000-square foot Owens & Minor distribution center that has been in their town since 1993”.
I found it very amazing that it would cost the city of Livermore $2 million a year to deal with the traffic and other public service effects of a 165,000-square foot warehouse distribution center. So I visited the city of Livermore website to see if I could verify this information. According to the “Economic Development and Fiscal Element” of the city of Livermore General Plan, Livermore has 12 million square feet of industrial and warehouse space in their city. Therefore, a 165,000-square foot warehouse is 1.38% (or 1/72) of the total industrial and warehouse space in the city of Livermore. If it takes $2 million a year to deal with the traffic and other public service effects of a 165,000-square foot warehouse distribution center, then it would take 72 times that amount to provide traffic and other public services to the total inventory of 12 million square feet. 72 times $2 million is $144 million. The total city of Livermore general fund operating budget is $82 million. So how can they possibly be spending $144 million on traffic and public services for 12 million square feet of industrial and warehouse operations in their city? Answer, they are not and they are not spending $2 million a year on the 165,000-square foot Owens & Minor distribution center.
According to their website, Livermore has a net assessed property valuation of $15.1 billion. I estimate the property value of a 165,000 square foot industrial-warehouse building to be $25 million. Therefore, the Owens & Minor facility in Livermore represents about 0.17% of the total assessed valuation of the city of Livermore. Therefore, based upon the total city of Livermore general fund operating budget of $82 million and using the proportional value method (ratio of cost of services to total assessed value) of determining the cost of services of an industrial development, the cost of providing services to the Owens & Minor 165,000 square foot warehouse distribution center is $135,000 per year, not $2 million per year.
So what was Livermore really doing with the $2 million they say they are losing? Well, on January 28, 2009 the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the City of Livermore had 179 employees with total pay over $100,000. The City Manager in Livermore had a base pay of $222,749 and the Finance Director a base pay of $170,360. If you compare the per capita cost of general fund expenses, Livermore’s per capita costs are $1,000 and Fillmore’s are $487. In other words the City of Livermore is charging its residents twice the amount that Fillmore is charging to provide general fund services such as police, fire, recreation, finance, planning, etc.
Roy Payne

To the Editor:
Re. Martin Farrell’s Realities:
Martin, in defense of my accusations that you used personal attacks against city staff and council members, you said, “critical examination is vital to good democratic government.” So please take the time to share with your readers the evidence (not rumor) your critical examination turned up supporting these claims you made last week.
Roy Payne retired a few years ago with a very nice retirement package. Before he left, according to Tom Ristau, he negotiated his own contract to do special projects work, a new position that wasn’t needed before Ristau became city manager and cost around $85,000 just last year. Four years later Barbara Smith said that Roy had completed the seven tasks he had contracted to do. Who was Roy assisting, Tom Ristau, Bill Bartels, who? When Roy quit Ky Spangler was hired to complete some other work Roy was doing (as shown in Roy’s chart last week) and will be finished next month. You say she is assisting Bill, was Roy also assisting Bill? I don’t understand.
Regarding council member Conaway’s trip to Washington D.C.: I emphasized that I did not think for one minute that Steve did anything to benefit himself personally. My only worry was whether he could remain objective when the council was considering matters pertaining to the sewer plant. This was a legitimate concern particularly after discovering that American Water utilizes a tactic of nurturing relationships with elected officials so they can do their bidding for them. I was well aware of the details of the trip but never heard Steve say it was or was not a mistake to go so I assumed he did not feel it was a mistake and if given the opportunity would go again; perhaps that could be clarified.
As to your claim that Walker, Washburn and Brooks have often and openly voiced their intention to get rid of the staff members you referred to, certainly you can provide the evidence your critical examination uncovered that caused you to make that claim. And please, save your arguments criticizing their desire to critically examine a temporary employee’s contract that was completed and a city managers contract that was expiring. Conversations I have had with Walker and Washburn along with all of their public comments regarding city staff tell a different story. While on this subject, and finally, Martin, you said that I “have been a regular, outspoken supporter of these views, in print and at the dais.” I don’t recall ever thinking or supporting those ideas either by writing or speaking them. So here is a challenge for you, and an easy way to prove your honesty to your readers; provide the letter to your paper from me or a recording of a complete statement I made at the dais supporting the unconditional termination of the staff members you referred to as judged by a mutually agreed upon person and I will apologize and contribute $250 to the Boys and Girls Club. If you can not provide proof then you apologize and make the same donation.
Bob Stroh
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
June 4th, 2009

To the Editor:
Brooks said “I have come with a sword. I have come to create division”.
It appears that the sword that Mr. Brooks wanted to yield to slash city management salaries and to rid Fillmore of out of town city management employees, has stabbed him in his hindquarters.
My review of the cost (as best I can estimate from available city documents…more about this later) and home residence of city management employees yields the following comparison:

So through the efforts of the Brooks/Washburn/Walker cabal, the costs of top city management employees has increased by $2,879/month and the number of top city management employees now residing in the City of Fillmore is still zero.
Walker says that “existing staff members have stepped up to fill these positions and keep the city running smoothly during this transition”. Ms. Walker how can it be true that existing staff members are filling these positions when you have hired an interim city manager from Wasco, a finance consultant from Wasco and a limited term assistant to Mr. Bartels to fill the vacated positions?
I would also like to discuss the apparent lack of transparency at Fillmore City Hall and the failure by the City Council to properly oversee the actions and representations that have been made to them, but will do that another time.
Roy Payne
Fillmore City Manager (1989-2005)

To the Editor:
For many years Martin Farrell, publisher of The Fillmore Gazette, has tried to affect outcomes at City Hall by using personal attacks and outright lies against those in opposition to his agenda. He carries out his mean-spirited assaults with utter disregard for the harm he may bring upon his victims and their families. He knows no limits. Most folks when voicing disagreement with others at least make an effort to be truthful, respectful, focused on the issues and civil, but not Farrell.
His latest target is Bill Bartels. Not one thing Farrell claimed or inferred about him is true. Bartels’ only position on the North Fillmore plan was to professionally do the job he was tasked to do. Bartels is not associated with any political group that opposed that plan. There is no correlation between the jobs that Roy Payne contracted to do, that are now performed by Ky Spangler (at $25 less per hour than we paid Payne), and Bartels job.
Mr. Farrell, owning a newspaper doesn’t give you license to harm people or use your position as publisher of the only print newspaper in Fillmore to damage our city’s image with your contentious bullying falsehoods. Your opinions, on the other hand, are invaluable and welcomed and when made in a civil and honest manner and considered with all others will contribute mightily to the overall good of our city.
Bob Stroh
Fillmore

To the Editor:
On May 18 a traffic collision occurred on S.R. 126 (Ventura St.) at Central Avenue in which a Ventura County Sheriffs motorcycle deputy received minor injuries when his motorcycle was struck by a vehicle in the intersection. Not being involved in the investigation, I don't know who was at fault or what mitigating factors came into play. However the accident prompted me to explore a concern I've had about that intersection for years. I believe the intersection is hazardous, even with the current signal system. I have long held the opinion that there should be left turn arrows granting the right of way for left turning vehicles on 126.
I have no statistics on the accident history of the intersection but I've observed conditions there first hand for years. Some west bound drivers on S.R. 126 approach the intersection at highway speeds of 55 MPH or more, ignoring the speed limit signs on the east side of town and, presumably, believing they're still on a rural highway, creating a hazard for left turning vehicles. The roadways are wide at this intersection and pedestrians (which abound in Fillmore) add to the difficulty by forcing left turning drivers to heed not only on-coming traffic but the peds also as they cross the street.
I believe the solution would be to install a left turn only arrow to the signals at this intersection, without a "Left Turn Yield On Green" phase. Maybe a left turn only arrow wouldn't have prevented the collision that injured the deputy, but it would surely decrease the hazard to left turning vehicles. The deputies are doing their jobs. They can be seen almost daily making traffic stops, proof that there is no shortage of violations on Ventura Street.
There are left turn arrows at Ventura St. and Rt. 23. Why not Ventura St. and Central Avenue
I urge the installation of left turn only arrows for 126 traffic at this intersection.
Matt DeMarco,
Fillmore

To the Editor:
To: All supporters of Fillmore Boys Volleyball
I want to thank all the following people who have made a difference with their support of time, money, and many other things. With your help the young men consisting of Nathan, Gera, Miguel, James, Chris, Erik, Noah, and Vince were able to win co-champions of the Condor League in their first full season of boys volleyball.
A special thank you to Martin and Susan with the Fillmore Gazzette for promoting the team in so many ways. To all the people that helped put on the spike-a-thon that raised over $1,000.00 dollars. The following donated money so our young men could be good representatives for Fillmore; Fillmore Soroptimist Internationl, Marge Aguirre, Norma Sanford, Mrs. Flores, Fillmore boys volleyball family, and Lani Farr. A special thanks to coach Drew Ferguson and Andy Aguirre that worked so hard to train these special young men, and the young ladies that kept the stats. A special thanks to Lynn Cole for all your time and patience.
Coach Joe Woods
Fillmore Boys Volleyball

To the Editor:
I believe in giving a compliment when one is due. The Fillmore/Bardsdale cemetery is looking as nice as I have ever seen it, if not better. Last year it was pretty torn up from installing a new irrigation system. It looked so bad that I was ashamed to send pictures to my relatives of the decorated graves; so much so that I sent them pictures of the year before. I was proud to send them pictures that I took this year. My family and I thank those involved for such a fine resting place for those that have gone before us.
John Heilman
74 year native.

 
Letters to the Editor
May 28th, 2009

To the Editor:
Re: Last week’s article “FUSD Board President Rebuts FUTA”
Mr. Garnica, you accused FUTA’s article of being nothing more than opinion and containing factual errors. Your article in last week’s edition of the Gazette also contains opinion, factual errors and attempts to purposely mislead the public. First, your opinion that the administration was the first to “feel the pain” makes me believe that you are certainly out of touch with reality. How can you compare not filling a long time vacated position (Technology Director) to a currently employed, living, breathing person receiving a pink slip. Empty office furniture doesn’t “feel the pain.” Some of the hardest working and lowest paid people in the school district ARE in fact feeling real pain. Second, if the “full-time quasi-administrative position” (thank you for the “open and transparent” specifics) you are referring to is the “Accounting Supervisor” then you certainly are out to deceive the citizens of Fillmore. This district office position was cut with the school board’s left hand while the right hand snuck around and created a new district office position called the “Attendance Accounting Specialist.” Can you clarify for the citizens of Fillmore how cutting a district office position while creating a new district office position (apparently designed for the district office employee that was just cut) is a cut? Is this recently cut district office employee also “feeling the pain” in their newly created district office position? I would ask you, your colleagues, and Gazette readers to think carefully about the following question: “Mr. Garnica, are you simply a victim of the disingenuous way Sweeney, Bush and Townend are operating our school district? Or, are you part of the deception?”
A Very Concerned Citizen of Fillmore

To the Editor:
Fillmore Friends,
Our daughter, sister, granddaughter Alyssa Diane Aguilar graduated from San Diego State with Honors from Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society with her Masters in education/counseling. We are so proud of Alyssa and all her accomplishments. We wanted to give a shout out to the community and let them know what she has done. Alyssa graduated from Fillmore High in 1998 and thanks to all the generous scholarships from the community she was given a helping hand. We are so proud.
David & Donneta Smallwood
Javy & Evelia Aguilar
Robbie, Brianna, J.D.
Granny (Shirley Spitler)

To the Editor:
To The Voters Of Fillmore:
We are finished gathering signatures for the El Dorado Rent Stabilization and Homeowner Protection Initiative. On May 13 I submitted signatures on this Initiative to the City Clerk. I would like to thank all of the volunteers who worked so hard to make this happen. I would also like to thank the Fillmore voters for their tremendous support of this important Initiative.
On May 20 a notice to circulate another initiative proposed by El Dorado MANAGEMENT was published in the Fillmore Gazette. It is called Fair Rent and Homeownership Initiative. As you might expect, this initiative highly favors the owner of El Dorado’s pocketbook. It offers NO rent control protection that we don’t already have, which only exists after a condo conversion. It gives the residents NO say in whether the condo conversion happens.
In addition, the paid signature gatherers are telling voters that my initiative is “unconstitutional” and that their initiative will replace mine. This is misleading and untrue.
This is the opposite of the initiative which I proposed. My initiative offers all seniors of El Dorado real savings on their rents. My initiative offers the residents a vote on a condo conversion (which, I gather, the vast majority does not want) that the City can use to stop the conversion from happening. In my opinion, management’s initiative will impose much hardship on the seniors of El Dorado. I am strongly opposed to management’s initiative.
Dave Roegner
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
May 21st, 2009

To the Editor:
As a former teacher for the Fillmore Unified School District, it has been exceedingly distressing to read of the current struggle for fair utilization of the District’s budget. I am compelled to comment because I am personally acquainted with the dedication and competence of the certificated and classified personnel. I have also served as Fillmore Unified Teachers’ Association (FUTA) president and was a long time member of the former District Budget Committee.
A school district the size of Fillmore Unified should require only a competent superintendent and one assistant superintendent. Competent is the key word. The fact that our district employs three assistants suggests that competence is not a factor. Why was the Director of Personnel promoted to Assistant Superintendent with a salary increase of 48 percent? Why was the Director of Business promoted to Assistant Superintendent with a salary increase of 31 percent? Other district personnel received similar inflated salary raises. Why did the School Board approve these promotions and raises? In the state of California, such high salaries are usually awarded only to district administrators who manage 3 to 4 times the staff, 3 to 4 times the students and have a budget 3 to 4 times that of Fillmore Unified. As a consequence of our administrators’ grossly inflated salaries, teachers are cut, librarians are cut, classroom aides are cut, and the students suffer.
Our students will not only suffer with less direct contact and services now. They will suffer with decreased ability to qualify for higher education and lessened future earning potential. This is not what education is about and certainly not what is good for the students. The people of Fillmore and Piru deserve better.
I respectfully request the School Board to rescind the promotions of the Personnel Director and the Business Director and conduct an immediate review of ALL district administrative restructuring and personnel/salary increases made during the last 24 months. During a time of a budget crisis, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been wasted. It is the legal and moral responsibility of the School Board to rectify this as soon as possible.
It is their moral imperative and duty to be the best custodians and conservators of our public funds for the benefit of the children in the Fillmore Unified School District.
Mary Ford
Fillmore

To the Editor:
As an individual teacher and FUTA member not representing anyone other than myself, I would like to apologize to Mr. Sweeney, the Board of Supervisors, and the other FUSD administrators for the false information printed in a front page article of the Gazette on May 7th. The erroneous information stated that Mr. Sweeney has received a 25% pay increase since he was hired not quite three years ago. This is very simply not true. His pay is approximately 5% more than it was on his hire date.
As we all know, we are in difficult economic times and the district has been required to make painful and severe cutbacks to the budget on the order of $1.7 million. If it were true that Mr. Sweeney had received such an enormous (25% salary increase), our natural and justifiable response would be to think poorly of both Mr. Sweeney for receiving it and for the Board for granting it.
Thankfully, this figure is nowhere near the truth:
1) On May 11th I went to the district office and filled out the form requesting Mr. Sweeney’s contract.
2) On May 13th by noon I had the contract in my hands.
3) The next day, the 14th, I sat with both Evalene Townend in her office and with Cathy Bojorquez in her office. Both of these women shared with me their information regarding the terms of Mr. Sweeney’s contract. Ms. Bojorquez gave me a copy of the district’s budget sheet that concerns Mr. Sweeney’s salary.
4) I learned from the original three year contract that Mr. Sweeney’s starting salary was $140,000/year.
5) I learned from the budget sheet that his salary for this year is $147,350. Math reveals the base salary increase to be 5.25%.
I love Fillmore Unified School District, where I have worked for eighteen years, and I love the community of Fillmore, even though I do not live here. I hate to see the community being divided by misinformation. There is an economic fire burning in our country, and it saddens me to see our community tossing logs into a fire of our own making. The desperate times we are in call for more than our usual level of cooperation in order to find workable solutions for a heartrending financial situation which none of us created.
Sincerely,
Christina Wilson
Teacher, FUSD
FUTA member

(To see the original salary data provided by the District Office, click here.)

To the Editor:
In response to Fred Carpenter's May 14 letter:
Hi Fred, this is your next door neighbor (one of the leaders of the "Pro Rent Control". This survey was done by a group of volunteers who split up the El Dorado phone book, went down their list calling EVERYONE we had a phone number for and listing the results. I can't speak for others who did the work, but I personally would call back part of the list, starting at the beginning, if they were not home the first call. I got tired of calling and quit the callbacks before I reached everyone on my list. If you want to dispute the info we gathered, then do your own survey and quit speculating and trying to spread false rumors. We do our homework, I can't say that about the "Anti Rent Control" group which is less than half the number of our group. I have nothing against your "group", but I do understand your MO.
Dave Roegner
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
May 14th, 2009

To the Editor:
May 8, 2009 FUTA Staff, This is an open letter to staff, one which I hesitate in writing, but one that is needed at this time as I am confronted with inaccuracies originated and published by the current FUTA leadership. There has been one change this year that represents the difference in the tenor of the District as well as the tone in relationships within the District. That change is the current FUTA leadership, who, unlike their predecessors, have been unwilling to work to create a harmony in all matters relative to the teachers they are supposed to serve. Selfless collaborative leaders are needed to ensure teachers’ rights are upheld; leaders who are willing to move away from the turmoil this District faced in prior years. My hope for this year was for current FUTA leadership to build upon the momentum generated from prior leadership. This momentum generated a new vision, brought salary parity, and forged an agreement between FUTA and the District to move our teachers from the lowest salary in the County to the median in 2007-2008. Prior to 2008-09, we had established a new mutual trust. Albeit cautiously, your leaders courageously and accurately represented teachers’ needs. It was more than the task of finding the money for a raise: it was the development of a new relationship that bridged the differences, allowed people with varied perspectives to heal, and to create a new FUSD. Unfortunately, over the course of this year, the leadership who led the District the prior two years were no longer considered and their practices that led to a harmonious environment have been eliminated. Whereas “trust and openness” were the watchwords of the prior two years, those words have been replaced with skepticism, secretiveness and animosity. Where our processes were interest-based, now the tone is adversarial. This year, you have been deluged with half-truths seemingly intended to polarize our employees, deceptions of how poorly the District is treating its employees, and a classic misdirection of facts that creates turmoil and keeps everyone wondering who is telling the truth and who is not. The new FUTA president came in with a process uniquely hers. Eliminated were weekly meetings between the FUTA president and Evalene Townend, our chief negotiator. Gone were the emails that went to all members of the negotiating team. Instead, a demand from the FUTA president was made to send emails only to her and she would decide who received the information, eroding the openness of communication and the sense of trust that was created in the two prior years. There are other changes.
Despite devastating budget cuts, FUTA’s leadership demanded more money during negotiations. Regardless of the cuts removing programs, reducing staff’s hours or days, or eliminating positions, the FUTA leadership wanted more money for their members. Although the rhetoric from the FUTA president is that she supports classified staff, she has not offered anything from the largest employee group in the District (68% of employees) to offset reductions. And instead of addressing what many are talking about, she frequently shares inaccurate and misleading information about salary raises for upper management in conjunction with a restructuring plan for the District Office. That plan was based on faulty information and was presented to the Board on the night the Board approved our final reductions. Again, classic misdirection which steers everyone away from the fact that FUTA leadership has not worked with the District regarding the current budget crisis. The FUTA president’s use of salary data in the Gazette article is inaccurate. She states, “The Superintendent in Fiscal Year (FY) 2007-2008 received a 25% salary increase from $117,000 to $147,000.” All District salaries are verifiable and public information. When I was hired in the District, the Board signed a three-year contract with me for approximately $145,000. Currently, my total salary is approximately $152,000. This is not a 25% raise. It is less than 5%. In comparison to other superintendents in the County my salary is ranked 14 out of 17. The references to the assistant superintendents’ salaries in the Gazette article are equally inaccurate. Please continue to carefully listen with intent, verify facts, determine the possible motivation for the information, and confirm it with those you trust. We are constantly bombarded with choices. Our Board was faced with many choices as they were forced to reduce $1.7 million. The Board studied several solutions in dealing with this deficit. Since discussions began in January regarding these reductions, all updates have been consistently posted on the District web site and sent out via email. In addition, the Board sought out suggestions from staff and community members via a District-wide staff survey, personal contacts and public comments. All suggestions were reviewed and considered prior to the Board’s final decision. Our District is at a crossroads as we are called to make painstakingly difficult choices. Our Board has already made many difficult decisions necessary to balance our budget. Unfortunately, there may be more reductions coming as our state’s economy does not seem to be improving. All of these possible reductions will prompt our District’s change, forcing upon us additional choices as we adjust our instructional program due to fewer services and programs. You are at your own set of crossroads. I hope that you will listen to all, inquire about areas that do not make sense, draw your own conclusions, and do not accept the opinions of just the loudest. “The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it is indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it is indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it is indifference.”- Ellie Wiesel, holocaust survivor It is not too late to stay involved, make a choice, and choose your own way.
Respectfully,
Jeff Sweeney
Superintendent, FUSD

To the Editor:
Re: David Reeves Letter
Mr. Reeves is correct in that I did receive a copy of the survey taken in 2007. He should take another look at the results because it shows 69% of those who responded were in favor of rent control, and this is only 30%± of the spaces in the park, which I believe constitutes a minority. I was living in the park at the time of the survey and was never contacted or even aware of such a survey even though I live next door to one of the leaders of Pro Rent Control. This makes me wonder if they were being selective of whom they wanted responses from. Maybe Mr. Reeves would like to “retract his ludicrous ill-informed letter” after reviewing his survey.
Fred Carpenter
Fillmore

To the Editor:
This will be the ONLY response to those who find the need to voice their opinions publicly about the Voice of El Dorado Homeowner’s Association. As usual, the facts in those letters are incorrect, probably because those persons writing do not read the HOA’s frequent, written correspondence reporting ALL Board activity (which has NEVER included pursuing Rent Control), and/or participate in the running of the HOA and attend general meetings. In addition, every HOA Board member has always been available to clarify HOA positions and answer questions.
The Board of Directors once again invites all El Dorado residents who are interested in the truth, to participate in the next planned HOA general meeting to be held in the Club House on Sunday, May 17 at 6 PM. The agenda will cover a recap of HOA business and events during 2008, a review of tools/supplies for the Block Captain Program, and information about Condo Conversion at El Dorado; what it is, and how it could affect you! We will attempt to answer all reasonable questions pertaining to the noted issues.
Thank you,
Voice of El Dorado,
Board of Directors

 
Letters to the Editor
May 7th, 2009

To the Editor:
Another success! Thanks to all the parents and community members who helped and donated their time and items. We had another big success. On April 18, 2009 we made over $1800 on the yard sale for Grad Nite Live. Again thank you, it is one step towards making sure that our kids go on this final cruise together as the graduating class of 2009 from Fillmore High School.
Sincerely,
Nora Toledo
Fillmore

To the Editor:
I would like to call into question a statement made by Mr. Roegner. "Most spaces in El Dorado have a lease with 4.5% increases per year. Over 10 years at that rate, the rent nearly doubles." I would like to point out to Mr. Roegner that his math could use a bit of assistance and at the ten year mark the increase would be approximately 48.6%. I'm assuming that when Mr. Roegner uses the term "nearly doubles" he is referring to a 100% increase. I'm not calling into question the need for Rent Control at El Dorado but as a voter if I am to make an informed decision I would prefer to see solid facts and not emotion based statistics. It's been stated that "some wind up losing their home because of the rent increases", how many cases have there been of seniors losing their home because of a rent increase in the past 5 years? I would also appreciate information regarding the price differentials of units being sold in Fillmore versus Santa Paula or elsewhere in the valley. Could you provide MLS listing numbers on a few examples?
Tom Fennell
Fillmore

To The Editor:
Re: Dave Roegner Letter
Dave Roegner, I am aware of the good work you have done for the Senior Center.
Therefore, I am sorry to see you continue to misrepresent the conditions in El Dorado, where I have lived happily for 35 years.
It used to be a peaceful happy place. But the "rent control gang," representing a minority of the park, continue to misrepresent the true facts, as you parroted in your recent letter.
Did you forget the City Council meeting where the Council voted NOT to consider rent control? Where 2'/2 times as many people urged a NO vote on rent control versus those in favor, I suggest you get a copy of the picture published in the Fillmore Gazette showing the sea of hands urging a NO vote if you have conveniently forgot. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. It is sure true in this case!
Please stop the irresponsible misrepresentations.
Jim Heady
Fillmore

To the Editor:
This letter is in response to Michael Steel's letter:
You obviously have not lived in El Dorado very long. The previous HOA had about 15 members so 1/3 of the park belonging to the new HOA is by far a superior number. Over 69% of The El Dorado Residents want rent control and do not want the park subdivided and we have proof. Furthermore, for your information, Star Management started their push for subdivision long before the current HOA got involved with their decision to support Rent Control and fight subdividing El Dorado. So to blame them is absolutely idiotic. You clearly are ill informed just as Fred Carpenter is. We gave Fred a copy of the survey taken last year showing more than 69% of the residents are in favor of Rent Control, but of course, he hasn't retracted his ludicrous, ill informed letter from a week ago.
As far as the government getting involved, that is their job just incase you aren't familiar with politics. That's why monopolies like El Dorado are illegal in this Country. And the job of Government is to protect the minorities from bullies, and left wing, kool-aide drinking liberals. Our City Council has every right in the world to get involved and make sure that fair and equitable laws are past to protect Fillmore's Senior Citizens. Many of us have lived here for many years and since you have just moved here, maybe the one who should leave is you because you are clearly in the minority.
David Reeves
Fillmore

To the Editor:
WOW another super production from the Sespe Players. If you missed "The Pole Creek Radio Hour" shame on you. I hope all the Fillmore Merchants that were a part of the play gave big donations to the Sespe Players for the renovations of the auditorium. Chris Villegas is a genius and a very welcome addition to the core of the Sespe Players.
The next production is going to be Saturday, May 16the at noon on the steps of City Hall by the Children's Theater. "Fractured Wolf Tales" that should be a must see by adults and children alike. So much fun.
Then in October they promise a funny, scary and interesting Halloween special. We are blessed in Fillmore to have such an energetic group that entertains us. If you have talents and want to be a part of this wonderful experience I am sure they would love to include you. They have 30 years of entertaining in Fillmore WOW.
Thanks again Sespe Players. I am looking forward to your next production.
Marlene Schreffler
An Avid Fillmore Fan

 
Letters to the Editor
April 30th, 2009

To the Editor:
Saturday night my wife and I attended the Sespe Players The Pole Creek Radio Hour, what a joy. It was nice to go back to the Sespe Auditorium where we had been treated to some of the Players’ earlier productions several years ago. Many of the experienced Fillmore performers were in the show along with some very talented young people just starting out. It’s a tribute to the Sespe Players dedication and love of the art that their group continues to grow by encouraging and giving young people the opportunity to participate and develop their talent.
The Pole Creek Radio Hour lets you escape for a couple of hours to a very fun place with lots of laughs. This Friday, Saturday and Sunday will be the last chance to see it if you missed it last weekend. We both left feeling that we would have been hard pressed to find a more enjoyable way to spend an evening.
Thank you Sespe Players for a wonderful show.
Bob and Joann Stroh
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Response to Fred Carpenter's letter of April 23.
The Rent Stabilization and Homeowner Protection Initiative has a large number of signatures from El Dorado residents already and we are not finished gathering signatures. The fact is that anyone wishing to NOT be under rent control can sign a multiyear lease and be exempt. That way you can have higher rent increases as you wish. Why should you care if others get a better deal when it is offered to you also and you refuse? And don't cry me a river about the poor multimillionaire owner not making more profits and losing rights. The initiative does guarantee the park owner a fair and reasonable return on her investment. The homeowners have property here too. Where are the homeowner's rights?
Our "small group" has turned out twice as many residents as your group has at City Council meetings in the past. There is a network of dedicated unheralded residents working hard to help slow down rent increases and save the homes of our seniors. These are caring people who want to help others in need. We are not criticizing others as your group does, we are here to help. Most of the seniors in El Dorado will not take action to protect themselves. It is a widely known fact that seniors often fall prey to the greedy and dishonest. That is why there are many laws at all levels of government to protect seniors. That is what our rent stabilization initiative does as well. We are still the only city in the county that hasn't given this protection to it's seniors.
Most spaces in El Dorado have a lease with 4.5% increases per year. Over 10 years at that rate, the rent nearly doubles. Seniors on fixed incomes do not get that great of an income increase and some wind up losing their home because of the rent increases. Add to this Fillmore's large utility increases and even more seniors are in trouble. How can you not want to help your neighbors?
The initiative will be available to sign on weekend afternoons at Vons east door. It is also at Super A on Saturdays from 5pm-7pm and Sundays from 1pm-3pm.
Dave Roegner
Fillmore

To the Editor:
In support of Fred Carpenter
I also live in the El Dorado Mobile Home Park and am tired of a minority trying to speak for the majority. This group has taken it upon themselves to declare themselves as the Voice of El Dorado. What gives them the right to call themselves that? It sure isn't the people here in the park. Only about 1/3 of the homes have signed on with the Home Owners Association, even after repeated and aggressive campaigning to get people to sign up.
This group has caused trouble and division in the park. We are now in a struggle to maintain and keep the life style that we moved here for. Because of them the owners of he park are looking to change the way the park operates, they aren't going to be successful because the residents have to approve the changes also and I don't believe they will do that.
Like Mr. Carpenter, I would urge the City Council to look twice at what is going on and decide to stay out of a matter that does not concern them and has no relevance on the governance of the city. I believe this is a local park issue that the people here need to address and handle, maybe by encouraging those that are so discontented to go somewhere where they would be happier, they'll never be happy here.
Michael Steel
Fillmore

 
Letters to the Editor
April 23rd, 2009

To the Editor:
To: Mr. Martin Farrell:
I can't stand it any longer. I have been reading your personal comments/attacks in the Fillmore Gazette and can't stand seeing this and have got to get this off my chest. You allow our own EX-Mayor and Current City Council Member Belittle his own—our own Fellow council members. You, Martin Farrell, personally call names to citizens who are genuinely interested in what happens to our city. You are allowing and encouraging offensive talk and comments. If you would care to notice your competition, they only report the facts and they leave their own opinions to themselves. A rule you might not have learned in kindergarten is: Thumper's Rule. "If you don't have something nice to say, DON'T say it at all." I know that all the citizens who have in the past or are currently on the City Council and Planning Commission, have taken these Thankless jobs because they truly care about our great little town and are trying to do their best for all citizens. Why don't YOU shut up and let them show us what they can do!!! In this economic crisis we all need to work together and not against each other.
Martin, were you encouraged or did you encourage your children to think as Leaders and not Followers? When citizens get involved with city issues and you call them names and Belittle them, this makes our concerned citizens discouraged to voice their opinions. Martin, OPEN your eyes and SHUT your mouth if you can't say anything nice.
Sincerely,
A concerned citizen

To the Editor:
I live in the El Dorado Estates and I’m concerned about the rent control petitions currently being circulated. I believe the petitioners have the cart before the horse. No one knows if the majority of residents want rent control, but it is being pushed by a small, but vocal group. I would hope if this ever reaches the city council they would make sure a vast majority of the residents want it. I believe the council has enough problems without adding an unnecessary one.
Contradictory to a previous letter, the owner cannot make the rent anything they want. Our rent raises are controlled by a consumer price index with a 3% minimum and 8% maximum. If this poses a problem, the resident is urged to contact the park office to obtain the parks voluntary rent subsidy program. I believe this to be fair and would object to any government enforced control.
Fred Carpenter
Fillmore

To the Editor:
For some, the city of Fillmore is just falling apart. Too many “key” staff have resigned, including the most recent, Barbara Smith, due to the fact that 2 new council members were elected in the last election. This is for sure the end of the City.
The true fact is that this is expected. It doesn’t matter what the business is, when a new administration takes the reins of an institution, some people are going to feel uncomfortable with the new ideas or the new approach to the same old ideas that the new administration will bring, and they will have two choices: 1. Accept, adapt and move forward 2. Resign/retire. Most of the city staff has already made up their minds, even though I will not be surprised if others still announce more decisions.
I believe that the way one resigns/retires demonstrates the quality of employee that one is. For example, Mr. Ristau demonstrated, in my opinion, a huge ego and ignorance by recommending another member of his staff for his position. People in management are expected to give his/her opinions of replacement only when asked by the committee or person in charge of the search, or personnel committee.
Mrs. Smith decide to announce her retirement not just by giving a date, but also by trashing the person that was appointed as intern city manager. In my opinion, Mr. Bartels hasn’t done anything wrong. He was the assistant city manager and he knows that as soon as the new person comes in he is back to his old position, so why trash him?
Besides, why didn’t Mr. Ristau promote Ms. Smith to the assistant city manager position when he had the authority to do so? If Ms. Smith is going to be upset with someone, it should be Mr. Ristau and not Mr. Bartels.
It is interesting to me, that at the time that Mr. Roy Paine resigned, no one questioned the qualifications of Mr. Ristau as a city manager. Why? Very simply, he was part of the “click”. But it is also valuable to note that, when one resigns from a position, it is normal to find an “alike” or “higher” position for replacement, which is not the case with Mr. Ristau. Would this talk about his qualifications as city manager? Perhaps.
According to media reports, Ms. Smith also went on and said “…There have been more closed-door meetings in this city in two months than there have been in 23 years.” I personally doubt that. The only difference that I see is that in the previous 23 years, she was part of the “closed doors meetings”, so she never felt that the door was ever “closed”.
Also, she “has requested that there not be any public honor or acknowledgment of her 23 years of service.” This is ridiculous, it is up to the employer to decide to make a public honor or acknowledgment of service, it is her decision to attend or not.
I believe that the city should continue with their current policy of public honor and acknowledgment and just let her decide if she will attend or not.
For the last 20 years or so, many of the city staff have accepted, adapted to each other and decided to work together, now a new generation of people are going to do the same, and perhaps, in a few years, we will have to experience a new transition again.
Eduardo Gonzalez
Fillmore

To the Editor:
Sadly, Fillmore’s Ship of State has been taking on water since the last Council election. As the weeks have gone by, the anticipated resignations at City Hall have taken on epidemic proportions, thanks to our new council majority of Brooks, Washburn and Mayor Patti Walker.
With the latest departure, that of City Finance Director Barbara Smith, Fillmore has lost four of its six senior management staff. These talented and committed people take with them almost a century of experience and intuitional history that is irreplaceable. Unfortunately, I doubt we have seen the last of the resignations.
Having worked with and developed friendships with these people over the years, I know none of them wanted to leave their positions. They took great pride in their work and accomplishments for the benefit the citizens of Fillmore. To the last one, they were highly dedicated to our town.
I hope Larry Pennell, the new interim City Manager, realizes that he isn’t stepping into a recovery, but a salvage operation. Fillmore’s Ship of State has sunk.
Ken Smedley
Former City Council member

To the Editor:
City politics in 250 words or less:
Roy Payne doesn’t want council’s fiduciary oversight of his contract negotiated by him while still city manager and quits after four easy years of pulling the strings from a consultant position. City saves thousands of dollars; Payne’s institutional control starts to crumble.
Payne’s appointed city manager, Tom Restau, quits after new council elected. Payne’s finance director retires. Steve McClary, all around good guy and great employee lands a great job with Ojai after stalling in Fillmore without a pay raise in three years - huge loss to the city.
Bert Rapp, with over a year left on his sweetheart contract, wants a new one; so he can leverage it in his negotiations for his contract with another city? Odds are he’s already interviewing. Kevin McSweeney wants assurances, says he wants to stay; council assured him he was valued and wanted.
Payne, Martin Farrell, Conaway, Cuevas and company have launched a smear campaign against Mayor Patti Walker and council members Gayle Washburn and Jamey Brooks they hope will whip up support for a recall. With Payne and Farrell leading the charge watch and see how rude, dishonest and downright dirty they are willing to go.
In the mean time, the global economic downturn will impact our city’s revenues and we will probably face some real problems meeting our responsibilities. The good news is we have a council who takes their fiduciary responsibility seriously.
Bob Stroh

To the Editor:
The field trip on May 2nd occurs in the environs of Fillmore, so I thought your readers might be interested. Thank you.
MAY FIELD TRIPS
Beginners are welcome on all field trips, and rain cancels any trip. More information is available at www.VenturaAudubon.org
Saturday, May 2, 8:00 a.m. Heritage Valley Hotspots. Leader: Tom Halpin (746-4598). This trip includes areas around Fillmore & Piru. We will meet at the Fillmore Fish Hatchery to check out the herons & egrets. The hatchery is located to the right off Hwy 126 just 1.2 miles east of Fillmore. From there we will car pool to Rancho Camulos, Piru Creek and Lake Piru.
Saturday, May 9, 8:30 a.m. Ojai Valley Land Conservancy Bird Tour at the Ojai Meadows Preserve. Leaders: Jessie Grantham & Allen Bertke. This is a great chance to see first-hand how the newly created habitat for local migratory birds & wetlands species on the Meadow has attracted several previously absent birds and waterfowl. Meet at Nordoff High School.
Saturday, May 16, 8:30 a.m. Hedrick Ranch Nature Area. Leader: Sandy Hedrick (340-0478). Annual Meeting and Picnic. $10 for lunch. We will bird this lovely area with the possibility of seeing a Thick-billed Kingbird. Take Hwy 126 to Santa Paula, 10th St. Exit. Go under freeway, right on Harvard, right on 12th and cross S.C. River Bridge. Go 3.7 miles to 20395 S. Mountain Rd. On right hand side you will see a big yellow mailbox, right after the mailbox, look on left side for the #20395 which is set back a little on a green metal fence. Turn left and go toward the river approximately ½ mile on dirt road and turn right to parking area across the creek.
Susan Bee
Ventura Audubon Society